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Va. Study Group Releases Uranium Mining Report

By STEVE SZKOTAK

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) â¿¿ A multi-agency group studying the possibility of uranium mining in Virginia issued a dense report Friday to guide the General Assembly if it decides to end the state's 30-year ban on the mining of the radioactive ore.

The highly technical report by the Uranium Working Group was delivered to Gov. Bob McDonnell, who in turn sent it along to legislators. The report does not make a recommendation on the mining ban.

Virginia has had a moratorium on uranium mining since 1982. But a mining company is lobbying to have the General Assembly lift the ban so it can tap a 119-million-pound deposit in Pittsylvania County along the North Carolina line. Full-fledged uranium mining has never occurred east of the Mississippi.

Virginia Uranium Inc., based in Chatham, has said uranium mining and milling â¿¿ the separation of rock from the ore â¿¿ can be conducted safely. The so-called Coles Hill site is the largest known uranium deposit in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. The company values it at $7 billion.

The company said the report made it clear mining can be done with "robust regulations" to ensure the safety of the public, workers and the environment.

"The report leaves no doubt that our regulatory agencies are capable of effectively and safely regulating uranium mining," Patrick Wales, the company's project manager, said in a statement. With the report completed and other studies already in hand, he added, legislators should lift the 1982 ban and draw up a regulatory program.

Cale Jaffe of the Southern Environmental Law Center said Virginia Uranium was getting ahead of itself. He said the tide has turned on the question of uranium mining with several statewide groups already backing the continuation of the ban. The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation this week said the ban should stick, joining two statewide municipal groups that came to the same conclusion.

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