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Three supervisors oppose lifting ban
Sunday, January 6, 2013
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The Henry County Board of Supervisors has not taken a stand on uranium mining, but at least three members are opposed to lifting the 30-year ban.
“I have told the board that I would certainly support a resolution” against lifting the ban, said Ridgeway District Supervisor H.G. Vaughn.
Danville City Council on Thursday passed a resolution to continue the ban.
Martinsville City Council took a similar position and included its opinion in its legislative agenda, according to previous Bulletin reports.
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Vaughn noted the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) and the Virginia Municipal League (VML) have “taken a stand against it,” and legislators predict it will prompt a contentious discussion as the General Assembly weighs the possible economic impact against the potential environmental hazards.
“It would have a negative impact as far as the economy,” especially long-term, Vaughn said. “I’m just not for it. With radioactive material and radioactive waste” generated from mining, nearby areas would be turned into “a waste dump.”
While “there would be jobs and revenues generated for a period of time,” Vaughn said he wonders when it is over, “then where will you be? I think we ought to be building industries” that will remain for a number of years and are safer.
“I’m not willing to risk the future of my children or grandchildren” to mine uranium, he said. “There are other venues for economic prosperity other than dealing with this ongoing danger of radioactive material.”
Reed Creek District Supervisor Tommy Slaughter, who is the board’s vice chairman, said he also supports keeping the ban.
The supervisors “talked a little bit, but decided not to take a formal stand because it really it doesn't touch us” and is in Pittsylvania County, he said.
That county “is close to us though, and from what I can understand, there is a 10-year surplus of uranium already stockpiled,” Slaughter said. “If we’ve got that much” he does not think there is a need for more to be mined.
Also, “every thousand pounds (of mined material) they drag out of there” equals one pound of uranium, Slaughter said. “So there’s a whole lot of waste there that’s got to be protected and guarded. It’s really not so much what they take away; it’s what they are going to leave.”
However, Slaughter said he does not think the board will pass a resolution on the ban.
“My fear right now is they just don’t know enough about it. But right now, as the old saying goes, we don’t have a dog in the fight” because it is not in Henry County, said Slaughter.
Although he did not read the final report following the study on uranium mining, Collinsville District Supervisor Joe Bryant said he has studied the issue “and read a lot of different things ... and myself personally, I think they should keep the ban.”
As far as any perceived economic boon, Bryant said “sometimes you’ve got to look at the pros and cons, and this is some dangerous material that they are working with.”
He also does not believe that lifting the ban would generate jobs in the region, because employees needed for the operation most likely would be hired from other areas. Bryant said it is unlikely that people already in the region are trained for such work.
Bryant also said he thinks supervisors may be “waiting on Pittsylvania County to make a decision on it. I’m sure that we don’t want to go out and say that we won’t support it” if Pittsylvania County decides to support lifting the ban.
Jim Adams, chairman of the Henry County board, said the stance that was part of the VACo package was seems to have been accepted by the majority of the supervisors.
“I’m not so sure that an additional resolution from the county itself would reinforce anything,” he said.
Horsepasture District Supervisor Debra Buchanan was not available and Iriswood District Supervisor Milton Kendall could not be reached for comment Friday.