RICHMOND – A company is suspending its campaign to mine one of the world’s largest known deposits of uranium ore in Virginia, concluding that Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe’s opposition presents a significant challenge over the next four years.
McAuliffe, a Democrat, had said before his election he would not support lifting the state’s decades-long ban on uranium mining and affirmed that position after his election.
Patrick Wales, project manager for Virginia Uranium, issued a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday: “We are in this for the long haul and are committed to developing the Coles Hill project. We will continue evaluating all options to move the project forward.”
The company’s low-key announcement to temporarily abandon its bid to end the moratorium comes after it invested hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past several years in political contributions, lobbying and to fly delegations of Virginia lawmakers to France and Canada to tour uranium mining and processing facilities.
Full-scale uranium mining has never been conducted on the East Coast and opponents said Virginia would be a poor place to start, citing its wet climate and the fierce weather that often rakes the state. Most uranium mining is done in arid parts of the globe.
The Coles Hill project, they said, would be a threat to public drinking supplies and farmland that encircles the uranium deposit less than 10 miles from Chatham. The mining would also include a milling operation to separate the radioactive ore from the rock.
Critics said that posed one of the biggest threats to the environment because of radioactive waste that would have to be stored for generations. Communities as far away as Virginia Beach, which draws public drinking supplies from the region, had taken a stand against the mine. Virginia Beach is about 200 miles away.