By STEVE SZKOTAK
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) â¿¿ The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation is backing the continuation of the state's 30-year ban on uranium mining, concluding that the mining and milling of the radioactive ore is a threat to Virginia's multibillion dollar agricultural industry.
The stand by the influential farm lobby, reached this week at its annual meeting in northern Virginia, is sure to resonate at the Capitol if the General Assembly decides to consider ending the ban in the 2013 session so a mining company can tap a 119-milllion-pound uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County. The Farm Bureau has 88 bureaus throughout the state and represents more than 146,000 farm families.
"When this is in the General Assembly, we will be opposed to lifting the moratorium," Andrew W. Smith, senior assistant director of governmental relations, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Smith said the "grassroots" vote reflecting the wishes of local farm bureaus was approved overwhelming. It was the first position on uranium mining in recent years by the Farm Bureau.
"They came to this conclusion because they've seen no evidence so far that technology exits to do it safely right now," Smith said of mining and milling uranium.
Virginia Uranium Inc. insists it can safely mine the largest known uranium deposit in the U.S., create hundreds of jobs and generate tax dollars and other revenues for Southside Virginia, a region in the state's tobacco belt that has seen its textile economy decline. The mining within 10 miles of Chatham would also require the milling of the ore to separate it from rock, then the disposal of the waste product for generations in containment units.
Virginia Uranium has pledged to build those units below-grade to minimize any threat of the radioactive waste, known as tailings, contaminating nearby water supplies and farm fields.