October 17, 2012
The Coles family has lived and worked on its family farm in Virginia since 1785. Their farm, Coles Hill, rests 1,600 feet above what is believed to be 119 million tons of uranium, the largest uranium deposit in the country. The deposit is valued at $6 billion, and contains enough fuel to power all of America’s 104 nuclear reactors for two years.
But the Virginia government believes the risks of mining uranium outweigh the benefits and has blocked the Coles from developing this resource.
At issue is whether the Virginia General Assembly will produce regulations that allow uranium mining. Uranium mining would create jobs and wealth in a region that badly needs it, and would provide an important energy source. Those factors are significant, but even more is at stake: the underlying issue over private property rights. May people safely develop their own property as they see fit?
The uranium deposit is located in southern Virginia, which has long suffered from a depressed economy. Considering the economic boost the mining of uranium ore would provide the struggling region, it’s almost neglectful for the state to deny its development.
The state makes an environmental argument against the development, but this falls short since uranium has been mined safely and successfully elsewhere. Virginia itself, Spencer and Tubb report, “has extensive experience in regulating the mining of other resources, like coal and titanium.”
Unfortunately, mining opponents are propagating misinformation about nuclear energy:
These anti-mining arguments rely on incomplete or incorrect information and have successfully scared some Virginians. In the end, they do not stand. In fact, assuming that uranium is mined safely under rigorous oversight, the benefits to the surrounding community and the state could be substantial.
The demand for clean, cheap nuclear energy is increasing, making this uranium more valuable. It is time the state allowed the Coles to use the valuable resources they already have at their fingertips to sustain themselves for another generation.
Do you think Virginia is right to limit the Coles’ use of their land?