The Coles Hill Farm uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County has been a bone of contention since the 1970s when geologists discovered it. From the property owners to one mining company after another, extraction of uranium ore has been an ongoing issue.
Likewise, the possibility of mining the deposit has met vehement opposition from environmental advocates and the majority of local residents. For decades, too, uranium mining has been an undercurrent in Southside Virginia politics. It’s about to get much more contentious very quickly.
That’s because Canadian-backed Virginia Uranium Inc. (VUI) and its local and international investors have taken their fight to overturn the commonwealth’s 36-year-old mining moratorium to U.S. Supreme Court. It has just scheduled arguments for Nov. 5, and the stakes for Virginia couldn’t be higher.
The first fight over mining took place in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Marline Inc. sought to mine the 119-million-ton deposit. Residents and environmentalists rose up in alarm and protest.
The mine Marline was proposing to open was an open-air facility, and there was no safety or environmental track record of such a facility in a climate zone as Virginia’s, technically a “humid sub-tropical” zone with an annual average precipitation of 43.37 inches. The danger to ground water, underground aquifers and the many rivers, streams and lakes was just too great.