Laker Weekly Marline Uranium donated hundreds of core samples to the Virginia Museum of Natural History. The samples are stored in a building at the Coles Hill site.

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LAURIE EDWARDS

In 1978, a Canadian company found the mommy lode of United States uranium deposits at among the three counties bordering Smith Mountain Lake. At Coles Hill, situated about 6 miles northeastern of Chatham in Pittsylvania County, tright here is an estimated 119 million pounds of uranium underground. While there"s the potential to geneprice countless dollars for the area if the uranium is tapped, tright here additionally are a variety of health, safety and security and also ecological involves.


Marline Uranium, the Canadian agency that uncovered the deposits, expressed an interest in mining the Coles Hill site in the late 1970s. Tright here were no state regulations governing uranium mining at the time, so then-Gov. Charles Robb issued a moratorium while the worry was stupassed away and also regulations were establimelted.


The problem was abandoned in the mid-1980s after Marline Uranium, the Canadian firm that found the deposits, dropped its plans to mine once the price of uranium plummeted to $7 per pound.


The price remained low till 2004 when it started to creep earlier up. Today, it"s $41.50 per pound, making the Coles Hill deposit worth an estimated $5 billion.


In 2007, Wchange Coles Sr. and also Henry Bowen, whose ancestors occupied the home as beforehand as 1785, establiburned Virginia Uranium Inc. Shortly after, they saw the state for permission to mine the radioenergetic facet, which deserve to be provided to geneprice nuclear power.


With the worry reopened, the state has mandated brand-new researches on the results of the proposed mine. Studies on the socioeconomic and also the ecological and also technological facets of the mine are in miscellaneous steras and are intended to take more than a year to finish.


As Virginia"s governing bodies await the studies" conclusions, location residents are lending their voices to a growing conflict on the potential economic and safety and security issues of mining uranium.


One of the best questions being asked is whether mining the Coles Hill site will certainly contaminate the groundwater, which many kind of rely on for drinking.


John Lindsey, who stays in the Pittsylvania component of Penhook and also is undecided on whether he supports or opposes uranium mining, sassist the potential for accidental contamicountry is cause for problem.


"I understand they usage liners on the tailings storage location," he sassist. "They usage liners under the landfills around here to attempt to prevent contamicountry of the groundwater, and also it"s not at all inexplicable to hear that the liner is leaking."


Jack Dunavant, a Halifax tvery own councilmale and also chairguy of Southside Concerned Citizens, a group that opposes the mine, has voiced involves at public meetings that the mine might contaminate the Banister River, which flows into Kerr Lake, which links to Lake Gaston. Tbelow are four water intakes along the path that administer drinking water to Halifax, Clarksville, Mecklenburg County, Virginia Beach and Norindividual.


Uranium and also radium both can be rerelocated to create potable drinking water. In Bedford County, the Public Service Authority for years operated groundwater systems that rerelocated uranium, radium, iron and also manganese, sassist Willie Jones, former head of the Bedford Authority and also present head of the Halifax County Authority.


He said the aspects were rerelocated with ion exchange. The focused element byproduct was disposed of through drain areas, sassist Jones. But he cautions comparing Bedford"s groundwater via the groundwater close to the Coles Hill website.


"The levels were so low in the raw water coming out that what you had actually as a concentrated byproduct was not exceptionally concentrated," said Jones. "We"re not talking about somepoint coming out of a uranium mine."


Patrick Wales, project manager of Virginia Uranium, shelp the Nuclear Regulatory Commission heavily monitors the environmental impact, consisting of on groundwater, of nuclear sites. He said technology is available that would proccasion contamicountry and also its usage is mandatory. Even without the technology and regulations, Wales said he does not foreview groundwater contamination from the Coles Hill website.


"You initially need to understand the geologic setting of this area," he said. "We have tiny disconsistent aquifers . What I suppose by that is there is not some subsurconfront huge water body that flows with."


Wales shelp the discontinuity linked with the impermecapability of the granite below Coles Hill stays clear of groundwater from conveniently traveling. Within the 3,000-acre website, a well that perks might be within 100 feet of a well that"s dry.


Some wells at Coles Hill contain uranium, but others don"t. Wales points to Coles" house and also well, which are situated in between the two uranium deposits.


"It could not be surprising that there"s uranium in his well water," said Wales. "It"s not a greatly substantial amount, not as much as you would certainly think for a well that"s in between the largest uranium deposit in the United States."


Coles shelp his family members does not have actually a filtration system for the well. Instead, "We perform the very same point we"ve been doing for 200 years -- we drink it."


A well a pair hundred yards away is uranium-totally free, sassist Wales. So is the home well a half-mile away.


Opponents and proponents of the proposed mine abound, offering pertains to and also assistance. Jim Shauberger, a Wirtz resident and previous U.S. Naval officer, said the potential economic and also employment benefits of the mine are too great to disregard.


"From a business standsuggest, the work are great paying and it would certainly absolutely carry all kinds of infrastructure to Pittsylvania County," he said. "I can"t think of any kind of location that demands an economic shot in the arm any type of more than Pittsylvania County does."


Dickie Dill, who has resided in the Pittsylvania County portion of Penhook for even more than 40 years, agreed.


"Instead of our children going in other places to find work-related, they could uncover somepoint else appropriate below at residence," he said. "I"d be tickcaused death if somebody readily available me a project to work-related at the mine."


Lindsey said he has some doubts around the economic and employment ramifications. He sassist uranium mines regularly employ migive workers, transients that go from one mine to the next seeking employment.


Coles, CEO of Virginia Uranium, sassist while a couple of jobs would certainly call for transplants, he desires to employ mostly Virginians.


"We"ll recruit local people and train them," he sassist. "A lot of that would certainly go on during the building phase of the mill."


Coles said the agency would prefer to work through area neighborhood colleges to build training for employees. He also proposed sfinishing some employees to uranium mines in Canada and France for on-the-project training.


Lindsey shelp he believes uranium mining in the area would spur the opening of businesses, such as restaurants and also grocery stores, which in turn would produce revenue and jobs. However before, Lindsey questions their sustaincapability as soon as the mine is tapped.


Lindsey likewise pointed to uranium"s fluctuating spot price, which might factor into just how much revenue the mine brings to the county during its estimated 30- to 35-year life. An economic examine by Lyntek Inc., a mining and mineral handling consultation and also building firm, predicted the mine would have a straight and instraight influence of $240 to $300 million.


Currently, uranium"s spot price is $41.50. However, only 10 percent of uranium is sold on the spot sector, said Wales. The bulk is marketed using irreversible contracts that lock in prices for several years.


"If the price drops, it doesn"t halt operations," said Wales. "Having a long-term contract price, you have actually the stcapacity."


Because of irreversible contracts and also the reality that uranium is offered on the global sector, some question whether a Coles Hill mine would certainly supply the 2 uranium power plants in Virginia or be shipped elsewhere about the civilization. Wales identified the worry.


A issue voiced by Smith Mountain and Leesville lake inhabitants at public forums is the impact a mine would have actually on water levels. Wales said the mine would not attract water from either lake. Instead, rainwater would be built up in pools for milling operations.


The studies being conducted might provide additionally insight right into concerns and also inquiries the public has actually voiced about the proposed mine. Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin County, shelp he urges people to view what the research studies disclose.


"I think what we need to do is just gather indevelopment and also watch what the examine says," he said. "Then we"ll have public hearings and also discussions, and also then reasonable civilization have the right to make reasonable decisions."


Follow the government"s conversation of the proposed mine at dls.state.va.us/groups/cec/uranium/meetings.htm.

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Laker Weekly Marline Uranium donated thousands of core samples to the Virginia Museum of Natural History. The samples are stored in a building at the Coles Hill site.