Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Area residents visit uranium site [Coles Hill]

We are posting this Letter to the Editor of the Chatham Star-Tribune (and Martinsville Messenger) from Pittsylvania Co. resident Glenn Giles 2 weeks after it appeared because a reply to it has been been published by the Chatham Star-Tribune today and we wanted the two to appear together. We had chosen to not post Mr. Giles' letter when it was published because it appeared to be little more than an advertisement for VUI and the grand wonders of uranium mining...sort of like Walter Coles' Uranium Fantasy Land. Mr. Giles' story of his day with VUI representatives sounded like a fairy tale designed by PR firms who, not wanting to be known as the Brothers Grim (which harkens back to those tellers of scary tales in the 1800's, the Brothers Grimm) have "Walt-Disney-ized" the scary (true) stories of uranium mining and so have made them pleasant and pretty, just waiting to be made into a lavish musical cartoon movie.

We were particularly amazed by the author of the letter below, Glenn D. Giles. Mr. Giles has been very active within the Pittsylvania Co. Historical Society, having served as its president and on its board of directors. Does he not see how radically and irreparably the history of Pittsylvania Co. will change when the carnage of uranium mining is unleashed in his beloved county? Under his careful stewardship, "The End" could easily be written as the next chapter of Pittsylvania County's history. How tragic...and how avoidable.

Mr. Giles is also deeply involved with the Dan River Business Development Center. He serves on the Board of Directors and represents the Pittsylvania County Economic Development Office. He has a responsibility to Pittsylvania Co. and to the entire area to act in its best interest as he and the DRBDC attempt to attract new business and industry to the Danville-PittCo area. Has he not read about what happens to cities and towns that have been ruined by uranium mining/milling? Businesses and industries unrelated to uranium tend to avoid these contaminated areas as the lasting scourges of mining and milling activities are not conducive to quality life. Those who might become employees with new companies run a higher-than-average risk of becoming quite ill as the result of having lived in the radioactive contamination in mining/milling areas. The new companies' health insurance costs will sky-rocket as the result of paying for cancers, kidney and thyroid problems, etc. caused by the previous and chronic exposure to radiation and radon.

Perhaps he should read Yellowcake Towns: Uranium Mining Communities in the American West (Mining the American West) by Michael A. Amundson. Talk about grim!

But Mr. Giles and a small entourage visited with VUI and went to Coles Hill and, if his letter is accurate, fell for the manufactured ambience. Here is his report of that visit:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 10:23 AM EDT

As a Pittsylvania native and one who spent 40 years in the chemical industry, I have found it embarrassing to admit to friends that I knew very little about uranium, the element, and nothing about its source and processing. When it was announced that the largest deposit of uranium in the United States was discovered in Pittsylvania County, I was excited, as anyone with scientific curiosity should be.

I had hoped factual details concerning this discovery, as well as some development plans, would be forthcoming in an understandable way. However, it seems that some newspapers rarely feel any obligation or responsibility to pass on scientific facts; residents seeking such information must find other venues.

That's just what my family and I did, and a report of our experience may encourage others who are interested in such facts to do the same thing. The website for Virginia Uranium is, and it lists the company's contact number, 434-432-1065. Upon calling this number, I was told they welcomed visits at any time, but preferred scheduling visitors in groups.

I telephoned six friends, who were free on short notice, and together we attended an informational presentation at VUI last week.

The session began with a slide presentation that included information on the geology of Pittsylvania County, followed by the history of the discovery of uranium at Coles Hill and the magnitude of the deposit, including a fascinating computer-based, 3-D model of the deposit. A discussion followed on the utilization of uranium compounds in medicine, power generation and national defense. Local health and environmental concerns were discussed, including the scientific study being conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, which will be designed to identify and address many of these concerns.

We were then given driving instructions to the Coles Hill site. We saw the previously described 3,000-acre buffer zone controlled by the company and the areas where mining and processing would take place if the development goes forward. Most impressive is the historic Coles manor house. We concluded our outing with a delicious lunch at BB Crane's on Chalk Level Road.

Even if you have inherent or induced fears relative to the safety aspects of uranium mining, you will find VUI employees very friendly and professional hosts and also find the time spent on your personal educational pursuit a worthwhile and memorable event. I recommend this visit to anyone who seeks a better basis for understanding this important issue.

Glenn D. Giles


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