Reporter: James Gherardi l Videographer: Levi Washburn
Chatham, VA - For the first time since its creation, the Governor's working group on uranium mining held a public meeting in Chatham, just minutes from a proposed mining site in Pittsylvania County. The Chatham High School Auditorium was packed with more than 400 residents, some in favor, and others in opposition of mining. Before the working group even began their presentation, the debate was well underway.
"It's hundreds of thousands of years to store, who's footing that bill?" shouted one woman in opposition of mining. "People are afraid, they don't know a whole lot about it, and I've got friends, and people that I know that don't really know a whole lot about it, and that's part of the problem," said Larry Aaron, a Chatham High School Science Teacher. The lobby of Chatham High School became ground zero in the continuing argument between supporters and opponents of uranium mining. "Virginia, the entire state of Virginia and North Carolina will be forever ruined, and there will be so many people without clean water," said Nancy Smith/Lives in Pittsylvania County.
They all turned out to hear the governor's multi-agency uranium mining group, give an update on their findings. Representatives from the department of mines minerals and energy, a private environmental consultant, and a geologist all spoke to the crowd; reminding audience members of the group's goal, to analyze the multitude of studies that have been done on uranium mining, and in turn educate state law makers before a final decision is made.
When it was all said and done, arguments still stood, "It showed that mining and milling activity, in particular, the mining, can be mitigated," said Walter Coles, who owns land on the proposed mining site. And many questions remained unanswered, "It goes right back to the economic argument that I think is the real question here; do we want to be that kind of a community where this is viewed as a uranium mining town?" said Jay Poole of the Alliance for Progress in Southern Virginia.
The group plans to continue their analysis of the Coles Hill Site. They have not yet determined when they will present their findings to the Governor and State Legislature, but reminded the audience that they will not determine if uranium mining is safe or not, they'll just provide the facts.