In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Virginia’s right to ban uranium mining.
Virginia Uranium, Inc., was the primary plaintiff in the case. Deposits owned by the company contain an estimated 119 million pounds of uranium, including Coles Hill in Pittsylvania County, Va., which is the country’s largest undeveloped uranium deposit.
Virginia Uranium’s attempt to override the state moratorium rested on the Atomic Energy Act, which gives the federal government jurisdiction over nuclear power generation. Supporters of uranium mining argued that the proposed mine could generate up to $4.8 billion for Virginia.
The National Academy of Science’s multi-year, peer-reviewed study on the effects of uranium mining found “limited data … to confirm the long-term effectiveness of uranium tailings management facilities,” even those which are “designed and constructed according to modern best practices.” Attorney Mark Sabath of the Southern Environmental Law Center told the Virginia Mercury that the process of uranium mining, which involves radioactive waste, “presents real risk to the communities.”
The decision to uphold Virginia’s 1982 moratorium on uranium mining is a win for supporters of states’ rights and the concerned citizens of Pittsylvania County. — By Kelsey Stratman