A state-ordered study of uranium in Southside Virginia released Wednesday shows that the region could benefit substantially from mining.
“The mining and milling operations would bring substantial and much needed economic benefits to Pittsylvania County, the immediate surrounding areas and the state,’’ the study says.
The 179-page study, conducted by Chmura Economics & Analytics, predicts that proposed uranium mining and milling at Coles Hill would generate 1,000 jobs, $135 million in net positive economic impact and $3.1 million in state and local taxes annually throughout the projected 35-year life of the mine. The study concludes that a majority of these jobs would go to residents of Pittsylvania County and the surrounding area.
Over the life of the operation, the Coles Hill site could generate almost $5 billion in net accumulated economic revenue for Virginia firms.
“The study clearly demonstrates the enormous positive economic impact our project will have on businesses, families and communities throughout the Southside region and validates what our company has been all about from the very beginning,” said Patrick Wales, project manager for Virginia Uranium, Inc. “From day one, our company’s mission has been to use the resources found at Coles Hill as a catalyst for the economic revival of Southside Virginia.’’ The state’s Coal and Energy Commission also has asked the National Academy of Sciences and the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech to review whether the uranium can be safely mined. That study is expected any day. Tests indicate about 119 million pounds of uranium — worth as much as $10 billion — are in Coles Hill, near Chatham, a small town in Pittsylvania County.
Update, 4:20 p.m.: The Roanoke River Basin Association responded to the study. "While we wished for a more comprehensive study, the Chmura report findings are telling,'' said Gene Addesso, RRBA’s acting president. "The study estimates that the net cost to taxpayers under the study's worst-case scenario would range from $6.6 billion to over $10 billion. And those numbers do not include the long-term costs. The Chmura report also acknowledges that there is “a non-trivial chance that the uranium operation could suffer extended periods of reduced production or may be even idled” due to fluctuations in the price of uranium; however, it does not detail the costs to taxpayers and increased risks related to the lack of radioactive waste oversight during the periods when jobs and associated benefits would be completely forgone."
This post has been updated since it was first published.