Statement of the Keep the Ban Coalition Steering Committee in response to the Virginia Uranium Inc.’s lawsuit challenging the Virginia Moratorium on Uranium Mining

Four years ago, Walter Coles, Jr., the chairman of Virginia Uranium, Inc. (VUI), whose company proposed to mine uranium in Pittsylvania County, made a public pledge as the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was completing its peer-reviewed study to assess the environmental, public health, and safety aspects of uranium mining in Virginia. “We are fully committed to heeding those findings—regardless of the outcome,” promised Virginia Uranium Chairman Coles in a March 2011 newspaper op-ed. “If the NAS finds that uranium mining would entail unacceptable risks, we will not pursue lifting the moratorium in 2012. Period.”

In 2012, the National Academy of Sciences validated public safety concerns about mining in a region with frequent thunderstorms, hurricanes, and extreme weather events. Following publication of the NAS report, a bipartisan group of legislators, including every General Assembly member representing the area of the proposed mining site in Southside Virginia, went on record in support maintaining the moratorium. Legislation to repeal Virginia’s ban on uranium mining was withdrawn after tens of thousands of voters, landowners, business owners, medical professionals and local governments voiced their support for keeping the ban in place, without amendment.

That overwhelming public consensus against uranium mining appeared to settle the matter until Virginia Uranium sued the people of Virginia last month with the unsubstantiated legal claim that a moratorium—on the books since 1982—is all of a sudden unconstitutional.

Instead of respecting its pledge to heed the NAS findings regardless of the outcome, Virginia Uranium now argues in court filings that Virginia “got the answer wrong” and that the General Assembly and the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission “had no business asking the question to begin with.”

Virginia Uranium’s move to renege on its pledge is insulting to the families and businesses in Southside and Hampton Roads who have clearly and adamantly spoken in support of the ban. It is also a waste of taxpayer resources, as the Attorney General will now be compelled to respond to Virginia Uranium’s meritless claims. As organizations working to keep the ban on uranium mining, we look forward to continuing our work with legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle as well as our Governor and Attorney General to Keep the Ban.

Keep the Ban Steering Committee: Dan River Basin Association, Piedmont Environmental Council, Roanoke River Basin Association, Sierra Club-Virginia Chapter, Southern Environmental Law Center, Virginia Conservation Network, and Virginia League of Conservation Voters

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"Saving a River's Legacy" - a short video featuring Southside Virginians dicussing their concerns about potential uranium mining in their watershed.

“Saving a River’s Legacy” – A short video featuring Southside Virginians discussing their concerns about potential uranium mining in their watershed.

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