August 2, 2009
by Shireen Parsons
URANIUM MINING has never been done safely anywhere in the world. It cannot be done safely. Logically, that should end this discussion, but it will not, because a few individuals, shielded from liability behind Virginia Uranium Inc. — a
The Coles Hill mine would be merely the first mine in eastern Virginia, as our entire Piedmont is strewn with uranium deposits, and Virginia Uranium’s corporate mandate is to explore and develop them. If, as it surely will, the legislature lifts the moratorium, the
As planned, the Coles Hill uranium mine would cover an area equal to 55 square city blocks and would be 800 feet deep. Through the blasting, extracting and crushing of uranium-bearing rock, all open-pit mines and their waste piles release into the environment heavy metals, including arsenic, lead and mercury, and radioactive materials.
The radioactive contaminants persist in the environment anywhere from hundreds of thousands of years to 4 billion years. They are taken up and retained by plants and animals, and they become part of the food chain forever. In animals and humans, the radioactive toxins cause lung, kidney and liver damage, cancers, leukemias and genetic mutations. In mammals, these contaminants are passed on to future generations in utero and via breast milk.
Once released into the environment, the heavy metals and radioactive contaminants travel great distances. Leached into ground and surface water in
Virginia Uranium’s public relations team tells us that, this time, uranium mining would be done safely, because the mining and milling of uranium in
But monitoring and oversight by our regulatory agencies are inadequate to nonexistent. Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970, one-third of Americans live in areas with unhealthy ozone levels. Forty percent of our rivers, lakes and tributaries aren’t safe for swimming or fishing. Deforestation, excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers — and a 60 percent increase in the amount of refuse generated in the past 25 years — have further contaminated the soil and water.
Those who would profit from uranium mining in
The relevant question, then, is who decides what
An ever-increasing number of citizens in Pittsylvania County and beyond, understanding the catastrophic effects uranium mining would wreak upon their communities and future generations, declare that they will not consent to this corporate assault, and that they will exercise their inherent local governing authority to enact binding local laws that will protect and preserve the health, safety and well-being of their communities and the ecosystem upon which all life depends.
mining within the town and criminalizes chemical and radioactive bodily trespass.
Halifax Town Council member Jack Dunavant said of the decision, “This is an historic vote. We, the people, intend to protect our health and environment from corporate assault. It’s time to invoke the Constitution and acknowledge the power of the people to protect our own destiny and end this era of corporate greed and pollution.”
Citizens and elected officials of every community downstream and/or downwind from the planned
Shireen Parsons is the
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