We’re gearing up for the renewal of our annual battle over uranium mining. As those who were reading last year will recall, there is a very large deposit of uranium just a few miles from our farm. The owner of the site (and the Canadian conglomerate backing him) have been trying for years to have Virginia’s moratorium on uranium mining repealed, so they can mine and mill the uranium.
Because of the danger this would pose to our community and our groundwater, proposals to lift the ban have been consistently opposed by all the political leadership here, Democrat and Republican, conservative and liberal. The Chamber of Commerce is opposed as are all communities between here and the coast (which share our water basin). Nevertheless, a substantial minority of people here have been persuaded that uranium mining will bring jobs and prosperity to our economically depressed community. More significantly, Virginia Uranium (the name under which the conglomerate operates) has gained the support of much of our state legislature.
Virginia Uranium spent over $500,000 lobbying legislators last year, more than the next two highest groups combined. That has been true to for each of the last five years. They have doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and have managed to enlist the support of influential legislators in both parties. They don’t show any signs that they’re planning to concede defeat.
Lately they’ve opened an office on Main Street in our sleepy little county seat, featuring large signs in the windows touting all the jobs and wealth they say they’ll bring to our county. Their P.R. campaign has included a relentless stream of pro-uranium editorials, letters to the editor, “internships” for children of local families and the like.
And now we have this.
Is it wishful thinking? Hubris? It is certainly provocative.
I wonder whose idea it was to put the emphasis on safety? After all, even the “safest uranium mine in the world” may nevertheless be unsafe. If making an unsubstantiated claim, why not say “the most prosperous uranium mine,” or “future home of thousands of blissful uranium miners”? Whatever.
Our Chamber of Commerce opposes the mining in part because the risk that it will occur is steering businesses away from our community. After all, who would want to move their family to a place with an active uranium mine and mill? So while the business community is trying to convince people that the ban will stay in place, the Virginia Uranium folks have put up this billboard on the main thoroughfare identifying our community as the site of a future uranium mine (while drawing attention to the safety issue).
Our governor-elect made a surprising announcement recently that he will veto any bill that lifts the moratorium. During the campaign he, like the other candidates, played it very close to the vest and never stated a position either way. His announcement was quite a disappointment to the Virginia Uranium team, and quite a boost to the rest of us.
I reckon this fight will continue until the price of uranium drops so much that it’s not worth their effort any more. In the meantime, we’ll just have to keep slugging it out.