Appeals court upholds dismissal of Pittsylvania Co. company's uranium mining lawsuit

By Colter Anstaett - Southside Bureau Reporter

CHATHAM (WSLS 10) - In the early 1980s, a 119-million-pound uranium deposit, the largest in the United States, was found in land near Coles Road in Chatham.

Soon after, the state imposed a statewide uranium mining ban, which remains in effect today.

Ever since the ban was implemented, efforts have been made to get it lifted so that the uranium can be mined.

On Friday, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond upheld the decision to throw out the latest lawsuit in the case.

Welcome news for those like Lester Terry Jr. who are opposed to the mining.

"I think it's hazardous," Terry emphasized. "From all that I know about it, it upsets the ecological environment and I'm not for that."

In its opinion, the circuit court agreed that federal law, specifically the Atomic Energy Act, does not preempt the state's ban and therefore the lawsuit by Virginia Uranium, Inc. claiming that it does, was correctly thrown out.

The lawsuit was thrown out in 2015 by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia and subsequently appealed.

Terry Jr. said another roadblock for uranium mining in the county is a win for both current and future county residents.

"[It] affects our health, our future generations, our churches and I'm right in the backyard of it," he said.

Uranium is highly radioactive, which is why he and so many others are concerned about being exposed to it if it were to be mined.

But, residents like Luther Hammack said the economic boost the mining would create outweighs the concerns.

"No, Sir. No. It doesn't bother me a bit," Hammack responded when asked if he was concerned by the fact that uranium is highly active and could harm the environment.

Another woman WSLS 10 spoke to, who didn't want to go on camera, said she lives just a few miles from where the uranium would be mined and the idea of it be mined doesn't bother her or her family.

WSLS 10 reached out to Virginia Uranium, Inc. Monday for comment but did not receive a response.

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