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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Council backs mining ban

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville City Council on Tuesday officially voiced its support for keeping a ban on uranium mining in Virginia.

In a unanimous vote, the council adopted a legislative agenda for 2013 that asks the General Assembly to maintain the moratorium because “engaging in uranium mining would result in highly damaging effects on all other economic development efforts in the region, excluding the jobs created by a mine itself.”

Area residents who support the ban filled the council chambers. They applauded after the legislative agenda was adopted.

“Thank you for standing up against ... this awful thing” (mining) that could do a lot of harm to the state and its economy, said Naomi-Hodge Muse, president of the local NAACP chapter.

Councilman Gene Teague said he thought the statement in support of the moratorium should be taken a step further.

He suggested, for instance, that the council adopt a resolution outlining what it thinks the state should do to protect localities from potentially harmful effects of uranium mining if the ban is repealed.

Other council members, as well as the moratorium supporters in the audience, chided Teague for his stance.

“We disagree strongly,” said an unidentified man in the audience. Others around him made similar comments or moaned from their seats following Teague’s remarks.

“The city council needs to take a more firm approach” in making known its opposition, said Mayor Kim Adkins.

Vice Mayor Kimble Reynolds Jr. said the best way to show opposition to something is to “draw a line in the sand and stand there.”

“Anything less,” such as suggesting ways to protect localities, could be construed as the council saying it might be willing to consider supporting uranium mining someday, Reynolds said.

Adkins was going to let audience members voice their opinions but in a show of hands, essentially all of them indicated support for the city’s position that the state should keep the ban.

No one raised a hand in support of lifting the moratorium.

The council had not planned to hear public comments related to its legislative agenda Tuesday.

Councilman Danny Turner said he did not want “a steady flow of people” coming to the podium to say they agree with the city’s position.

Although he voiced his personal support for continuing the ban, Turner said that if the council was going to take public comments, it should have let people know before the meeting so anyone who might support lifting the ban also could come and speak.

The ban was enacted in 1983 after scientists voiced concerns that uranium mining could harm the environment and public health. Uranium is a radioactive element used to generate nuclear power and make nuclear weapons.

Virginia Uranium Inc. wants the ban repealed so it can mine and mill uranium at a location near Chatham thought to be one of the world’s largest deposits of the metal. The company maintains the mine would create hundreds of jobs and its operations would be safe.

Based on her studies, Hodge-Muse said uranium is underground from Maryland to North Carolina in places “in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Parkway.” She said the shifting of techtonic plates has brought the element to between 800 and 1,000 feet below the Earth’s surface.

“There is power in numbers” if localities band together to make the state keep the uranium mining ban, she added.

The council’s legislative agenda also calls for, among many other things, federal and state lawmakers to issue permits needed for the city and Henry County to continue developing Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre.

Adkins asked that a provision be included in the agenda requesting that the state end its practice of requiring localities to give back some of their state funding — so-called “local aid to the commonwealth.”

Councilman Mark Stroud said the practice is “kind of like state-sponsored extortion.”


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