SELC defending Virginia uranium mining ban against repeated industry attacks

A uranium deposit in the Dan River watershed is upstream from drinking water supplies for more than 1 million people in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and other Virginia and North Carolina communities. (© Charles Shoffner)

As Virginia Uranium, Inc. continues refusing to take no for an answer, SELC and our partners, the Dan River Basin Association and the Roanoke River Basin Association, remain engaged in protecting Virginia’s ban on uranium mining.

The company, which hoped to mine a uranium deposit north of Danville, has been rebuffed at every turn since they first attempted to bring risky mining practices to the area in 2007. This, despite a uranium mining ban in place since 1982. Nonetheless, the company persists, making more outrageous claims as they go. Already SELC and our allies succeeded in blocking attempts by Virginia Uranium, Inc. (VUI) to pass legislation to lift the state freeze on uranium mining. Now the company is challenging the ban with state and federal lawsuits.

The case moving through state courts examines the question of whether, by banning uranium mining, the state unconstitutionally took away the value of VUI’s property. The parent company, Canadian-based Virginia Energy Resources, implausibly argued, in part, that it should be compensated for potential revenue lost through a mining ban that was in place long before the company formed. SELC filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case, supporting the Commonwealth’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Accordingly, the court in Wise County has already dismissed any claims for compensation, and the only issue still pending is whether the court will order state agencies to accept and process uranium mining permit applications. 

Not long ago, SELC also filed a “friend of the court” brief in VUI’s federal case, laying out in detail how the company’s tortured reading of the Atomic Energy Act would radically expand its scope and force not only Virginia but all states to allow uranium mining. The brief also pointed out that the company’s claims were contrary to its own past public statements, which acknowledge that there are no federal laws or regulations covering conventional uranium mining on private lands and that this is an area of exclusive state control. In December, the federal district court agreed with us, dismissing VUI’s motion, and the company has since appealed. SELC has also filed a “friend of the court” brief in the appellate litigation.

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