About 15 local and state lawmakers are flying to Canada this month on all-expenses paid trips as part of an on-going lobbying effort by a company pushing lawmakers to lift a moratorium on uranium mining in the state.
Virginia Uranium invited state legislators and local elected officials from Southside Virginia to visit an active mine in Canada as it looks to mine what is thought to be the largest deposit of uranium in the United States, in south central Virginia.
Larry Campbell, a member of the Danville City Council, said he had planned to go on the two-day trip, but that he changed his mind when some of his constituents told him they thought he was being “bought off.”
Virginia Uranium already sent Sen. Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) to Saskatchewan, Canada, this year.
The trip is similar to the one about a dozen legislators took this summer to France that came under heavy criticism across the state.
The trips are permissible under Virginia law and must be reported to the state as gifts next year.
Two uranium deposits were found three decades ago in Coles Hill, near Chatham, a small town in Pittsylvania County. They begin at the ground’s surface, under land used to raise cattle, hay and timber, and run about 1,500 feet deep.
The company said tests indicate that about 119 million pounds of uranium — worth as much as $10 billion — are below the surface. That would be enough to supply all the country’s nuclear power plants for about two years or all of Virginia’s demands for 75 years.
Virginia Uranium hopes to persuade the General Assembly to repeal the nearly three-decade ban on mining at its regular session in January by convincing lawmakers that mining can be done safely. The trip to Canada is designed to help show that mining was done safely and the region remains free of radiation.
Check back later and in Wednesday’s newspaper for more information.