RICHMOND — A Senate proposal to lift the moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia has been withdrawn, seriously jeopardizing its prospects for this year’s General Assembly session.
State Sen. John C. Watkins (R-Powhatan), the bill’s sponsor, struck the proposal Thursday afternoon. His legislation had been stalled in the Senate for days.
“It is very frustrating to me that I have been unable to convince some of my colleagues that this effort can be accomplished safely and economically here in Virginia,” Watkins said in a statement. “Undeniably, nuclear power production is the cleanest system that we have developed to date that is capable of producing energy at a scale that not only is needed in Virginia but certainly across our nation.”
Watkins’s measure would allow a mining permit only for the site at Coles Hill in south central Virginia that is owned by Virginia Uranium. Sitting on the site is a 119 million-pound uranium ore deposit valued at about $7 billion. A similar measure has been assigned to committee in the House of Delegates but has not been put on the legislative calendar.
Supporters say the mineral can be mined safely and would bring jobs and economic development to a depressed region of the state. Critics are worried that uranium mining poses significant environmental and health risks to the surrounding community and could stigmatize the area against residential and commercial development.
In a joint statement Thursday several legislators who represent southern Virginia and oppose uranium mining said: “With the resolution of this issue at hand, business site selectors who are considering our region can now take any misgivings about an operating uranium mine off their list of concerns.”