Conservation groups weigh in to preserve Virginia ban on uranium mining

Paddlers enjoy the Roanoke River in Virginia, which is under threat from attempts to lift a statewide ban on uranium mining.

SELC filed a brief this week on behalf of the Roanoke River Basin Association and the Dan River Basin Association defending against an industry challenge to Virginia’s 33-year-old statutory ban on uranium mining.  

Last August, Virginia Uranium, Inc. (VUI) sued the Commonwealth of Virginia with the unsubstantiated legal claim that the moratorium—on the books since 1982—is suddenly unconstitutional. The lawsuit represents a wholesale reversal of VUI’s earlier position, when the company’s CEO pledged in a local newspaper that, if it was found “that uranium mining would entail unacceptable risks, we will not pursue lifting the moratorium.”

Now that VUI has broken that pledge, conservation groups are in court supporting the state ban, and representing the wishes of locals who know that vibrant and healthy rivers are critical for promoting tourism, fishing, boating, and a strong, Southside economy. VUI is looking to exploit a uranium deposit in Southeastern Virginia’s Pittsylvania County, which lies in the watershed of the Roanoke and Dan Rivers.  

“Despite its earlier commitment to abide by the legislative process, VUI now wants to strip the General Assembly of its ability regulate its own affairs and require Virginia to allow uranium mining ,” said Staff Attorney Will Cleveland.

The groups’ amicus brief was filed in advance of a hearing this Friday, Nov. 6 on the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and VUI’s cross motion for summary judgment.

Watch NBC29 coverage of the hearing featuring Cale Jaffe, Director of SELC's Virginia office.

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