Thursday, March 5, 2009

More Info on Scope of Mine Study Commission's Meeting Set for March 24 in Richmond

By John Crane

Published: March 5, 2009

The Virginia Coal and Energy Commission’s Uranium Mining Subcommittee, tasked with studying the safety and hazards of uranium mining in the state, will hold a meeting March 24 in Richmond.

The meeting will be held at 2 p.m. in House room C in the General Assembly Building and will be open to the public, Delegate Lee Ware, R-Powhatan and chairman of the committee, said Wednesday.

Michael Karmis, director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech, will present a proposal for the study’s scope, or the range of scientific questions to be answered in it, to the 10-member subcommittee. Karmis and the subcommittee also will discuss choices for who would perform the economic part of the study, Ware said.

The Virginia Coal and Energy Commission approved a study in November to determine whether uranium can be mined and milled safely in the commonwealth.

Virginia Uranium Inc. seeks to mine and mill a 119-million-pound ore deposit on Coles Hill about six miles northeast of Chatham. The state has had a moratorium on the practice since the early 1980s.

The subcommittee held a public hearing in Richmond in December and another at Chatham High School in January to gather questions residents want answered in the study. Subcommittee members will again seek public input during the March 24 meeting, Ware said.

He said the subcommittee wants the National Academy of Sciences to conduct the study’s scientific portion.

“We certainly hope the National Academy of Sciences would undertake the study,” Ware said.

The study, in the “warm-up phase,” would take about two years, he said.

Ware said the subcommittee would consider Karmis’ proposal and make a decision at the meeting, or at a later date if revision of the study’s parameters is needed. The next step would be to have Karmis contact the NAS and ask the academy to launch the study, he said.

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