In November 2007, when Walter Coles announced the formation of Virginia Uraniun Inc., uranium mining in Pittsylvania County was promoted as a "hometown industry," just a few local folks trying to make a little pocket money and intending, as Coles himself put it, "to create a glorious new era for Southside Virginia."
It all sounded so wonderful, so promising, so clean.
Uranium would replace tobacco and textiles as the economic base for Southside, and we would all live happily ever after in the glow emanating from Coles Hill.
Now, two years later, VUI has merged with a Canadian mining conglomerate, Santoy Resourses Ltd., a move that many believe VUI had planned all along, in order to get the big boys on their side.
And so they have. Santoy has big plans for Southside.
No longer is it kindly Uncle Walter and his homegrown uranium patch. Uranium mining in Pittsylvania County has moved into the real world of dog-eat-dog corporate business.
And business means one thing to Santoy: making money. That is exactly why they are here, ready to set up and start digging.
And make no mistake about it, Santoy has little regard for what happens to the people of Southside, or for the land on which many of us have lived for generations.
They are profit driven, and anyone who thinks otherwise is simply naive.
What Santoy sees in Pittsylvania County is not the beautiful place where almost 70,000 people live and work, but a spot on the map where there is uranium to be had, profits to be made, and a place to establish themselves in order to begin mining the other numerous uranium deposits in Virginia.
Some members of the Pittsylvania Board of Supervisors have done everything they could to accommodate VUI's agenda. They seem not to have noticed that Santoy has been added to the picture.
Chairman Coy Harville, after two and a half years, is still claiming that he does not know enough about the uranium issue to make any kind of decision.
William Pritchett, who represents the district where the uranium mine would be located, is also willing to sit by and let someone else make his decisions for him.
They innocently believe that the legislature in Richmond is going to make a decision for them that will be in the best interest of the people of Pittsylvania County, based on a "study" paid for and set up by VUI and the Coal and Energy Commission, who, by the way, have overseen the pollution and destruction of much of Southwest Virginia by the coal mining industry, just as Santoy plans to do with Southside.
Now, my question to the people of Southside is this: Are you willing to sit by and let a foreign corporation, known for its aggressive pursuit of uranium in Canada, come into Pittsylvania County and ruin our land, our water, our air, and our heritage for all time?
If you are willing to let this happen, then call Walter Coles and sign up for that activity. He certainly needs all the help he can get.
But if you believe that the ruination of your home solely for the profit of that foreign corporation and a few local investors is a bad idea, then here is what you can do to help yourself:
Go to every supervisors' meeting, sign up to speak, and demand that they ban uranium mining in Pittsylvania County and in Virginia once and for all.
As voters, you have a right to stand up and tell the supervisors what you want. You have a right to control your own destiny.
You do not have to live with decisions made by people who don't even live here, or decisions made by local politicians who are, as they readily admit, not informed enough about uranium mining to make any decision at all.
Go to them and tell them that you do not want uranium mining in Pittsylvania County.
The supervisors are supposed to be working for you and in your best interest, not in the interest of a Canadian mining company.
Pittsylvania County is being invaded in order to profit at the expense of your health and your wellbeing.
If a thug broke into your home, would you just sit there and let him take your valuables and do harm to you and your family? Probably not. This situation is no different from that.
But you must be willing to defend yourself.
You must tell the supervisors that you will not tolerate being violated by a foreign mining conglomerate or by local mining speculators.
Every voice counts. Stand up and protect yourself. No one else will.
Jesse Pyrant Andrews