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The Blue & Gray Press | February 19, 2018

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President’s Council Voices Ban Support

By MOLLY HODGES

The UMW President’s Council for Sustainability (PCS) has signed the Keep the Ban Resolution in support of the moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia.

Virginia Uranium, Inc. hopes to mine the largest untapped uranium deposit in the U.S., which is located at Coles Hill in Pittsylvania County. According to the Virginia Uranium website, the uranium deposit contains an estimated 119 million pounds of uranium.

“It’s a matter of common sense to put the natural resources at Coles Hill to work as a powerful economic engine for the region and for the national security of America,” according to the Virginia Uranium website.

This has been a key issue for the ecology club, which will continue to advocate for maintaining the uranium mining ban.

“The ecology club is especially active this year and they have been working very hard with the Sierra Club to keep the uranium mining ban in Virginia,” said PCS Co-Chair Melanie Szulczewski, who is also the ecology club faculty advisor.

According to an article in The Free Lance-Star, “Virginia Uranium says mining can be done in an environmentally responsible way, and that the project would be an economic boom to the county and add to the nation’s energy resources.”

According to junior Graham Givens, an ecology club officer and a member of the PCS, if the ban is lifted in Orange County, the mining of uranium will produce about 29 million tons of toxic waste, which will ultimately end up in the Rappahannock watershed. This would be detrimental to the water supply of Fredericksburg, Orange, Fairfax and Spotsylvania County.

“We’re kind of breaking new ground in the sense that our group is going to be able to put out a statement saying this is what we support and kind of forward a request for the support of the university at large,” said the Director of Landscape and Grounds and member of the PCS Joni Wilson.

The Virginia Sierra Club, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the National Wildlife Federation and the Virginia NAACP also support the resolution.

“If the uranium mining is going to produce more efficient energy resources, then it seems a little contradictory to me to protest it based on environmental principles,” said junior Rebecca Lamm. She added that public health and safety was a concern for her too.

Freshman Alice Redhead said, “There are so many other ways to get energy that can be equally cost effective. I think it’s pointless environmental damage and health risks for something that’s not going to even last anyway.”

In 1982, the Virginia General Assembly imposed a moratorium on uranium mining and tasked the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission with studying the effects of this type of mining on the environment and citizens of Virginia.

On Dec. 7, 1984, the Piedmont Environmental Council announced PEC Standard Policy 420. It discouraged uranium mining and milling in Virginia and stated, “there is no convincing evidence that uranium mining and milling can be conducted in Virginia in a manner that ensures the present and futures safety of Virginia’s residents and environment.”