Officials at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy say they will be mobilizing activists across the state to lobby the General Assembly to continue a moratorium on uranium mining in the state.
Trieste Lockwood, director of the group’s power and light program, said that mining could harm drinking water, residents’ health and the economy by damaging agricultural, tourism and fishing industries if there is an accident.
Tests indicate that about 119 million pounds of uranium are located in Coles Hill, near Chatham, a small town in Pittsylvania County. A company pushing to mine the uranium, Virginia Uranium, says that it could be worth as much as $10 billion.
“The financial gain of one corporation is really simply not worth the longterm risks to so many people,” Lockwood said.
The state’s Coal and Energy Commission 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.
Many elected officials are waiting until after the study to take a position on mining, but Lockwood said the group did not want to wait, though she left open the door to changing the position if the study says uranium can be mined safely.
“We do not believe an unbiased study exists that suggests uranium is no longer radioactive and no longer has severe health consequences,’’ she said.
Patrick Wales, Virginia Uranium’s project manager, said he thinks it’s hypocritical for a group that says it supports job creation to oppose an effort that could bring 325 jobs to the area.
“Many of these organizations have stated their position without the forthcoming scientific information and without respect for it,’’ he said.