18 December 2007

Heck NO! We won't glow: Pittsylvania County, 1981 post

News From the Past.......1981

(From the New York Times 11/15/1981)



The first major exploratory drilling east of the Mississippi River for uranium ore to fuel the nation's nuclear power industry is dividing rural Virginians. In the southern part of the state, the preliminary core drilling seems to be generally accepted. To the north, residents concerned about low-level radiation are pitted against landowners who are leasing property to a uranium company.

The Marline Uranium Corporation, a subsidiary of the Canada-based Marline Oil Corporation, has spent $8.7 million in four years of prospecting for minable deposits of uranium oxide and in gathering leases to excavate the radioactive substance in five counties.

The leases signed so far by some 300 Virginians cover 53,000 acres in two areas of the state. Most of the leases are in Pittsylvania County, on the North Carolina line near Danville. There, the textile and tobacco community seems to have accepted the prospect of uranium riches with hopeful equanimity.

Core Drilling Demonstration

There today, Marline held a ''uranium fair,'' with free lunch and country music for 1,000 people, to demonstrate what it describes as the environmentally innocuous process of core drilling. Joanne Spangler, a critic who concedes that opposition to uranium development in Pittsylvania County is ''practically non-existent,'' noted that Marline representatives said little today about the actual mining and milling of uranium ore, a process she said would ''spread radioactive dust.''

The company is actively core drilling, a step in determining uranium reserves, around Danville on leases from such community leaders as the chairman of the county board of supervisors and the editor of the region's largest weekly newspaper. Although no open pit mining has begun and no major ore deposit has been reported, Marline spokesmen say they are ''encouraged'' by the findings so far.

Resistance in Northern Virginia

But in the second area, northward into the Virginia exurbs of Washington, there is increasing resistance. Marline officials say they have leases for only 12,000 acres in the area, along the outline of the so-called Newark group of the Triassic basin, a geological formation of a uranium-bearing sandstone that extends from the Carolinas through Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and on into Maine.

On a line from Washington to Charlottesville, the northernmost of the two areas of ''radioactive anomalies'' cuts across parts of northern Virginia's famed hunt country. But radioactivity is not the only anomaly.

In a trend that opponents of uranium development say they find baffling, several of the wealthy landowners have led the way in signing mining leases. Barring a major find, the rewards of the standard lease seem modest. What is unknown, however, is how large a ''signing bonus'' Marline is paying for preferred leases. The ''standard bonus'' is $5 an acre, said Robert N. Pyle, a spokesman for the uranium company.

The 15-year contracts, which can be unilaterally cancelled at any time by Marline but not by the lessors, offer a per-acre rental payment of $1 a year for the first three years. The payment increases to $10 an acre in each of the fourth through seventh years, and then to $30 an acre through the 15th. But the higher payments are deemed ''advances'' against future tonnage royalties if mining is actually begun. Haulage charges to a mill from active mines also are to be deducted from lessors' payments unless a mill is begun directly on their properties, which the contracts give Marline the right to do.

One of the first and largest signers here in north-central Virginia was Donald E. Gingery, who recently bought Somerset Plantation, a 1,200-acre farm in southern Orange County, northeast of Charlottesville.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Gingery said ''I don't know'' when asked why he had leased all of his nearly 2 square miles of farm land. Then he added, ''I believe in the project.''

Change in Zoning Ordinance

Last June, the Gingery lease and others in the watershed of the Rapidan River spurred the apprehensive Orange County board of supervisors to amend its zoning ordinance, making it as difficult to obtain permits to core drill as to open a mine. The action came after a citizens' meeting at which a local physician raised the threat of delayed cancers from radioactive pollution of ground and river water.

The effects of low-level radiation are in debate among scientists. This fall, Orange County and other central Virginia jurisdictions asked the state government for a moratorium on all uranium activity in the state until the safety questions are resolved.

'Uranium Is a Bummer'

''I am not antinuclear,'' said James N. Cortada, the bluff former Foreign Service officer who is Mayor of the city of Orange, the county seat.
''But from an economic point of view, for us uranium is a bummer. We will not permit any uranium mining in Orange County without every conceivable process and protection, no matter what it costs.''

Officials of Marline, who came here stating in newspaper interviews that they were ''high rollers,'' say they are counting on an increase in the currently depressed price of uranium that could turn their prospecting investment in Virginia into a good thing.

At a recent briefing here, Norman W. Reynolds, Marline's vice president in the company's Danville office, said that while there are no plans to begin core drilling in Culpeper County in 1981, ''we think there is potential in this area or we wouldn't be here.''

Abandoned Uranium Mine, Riley Pass, SD

Abandoned Uranium Mine, Riley Pass, SD
Is this what Pittsylvania county will look like in 30 years?

"Heck No, We Won't Glow"

View Current Signatures - Sign the Petition

To: Elected and Appointed State and Local Officials of the states of Virginia and North Carolina

To: Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine
Members, Virginia General Assembly
Members, Pittsylvania County. Halifax County, and Henry, VA County Board of Supervisors
Members, Rockingham, Caswell, and Person, NC County Board of Commissioners
Members, Town and City Councils of all towns and cities in the 6 counties cited above.
All elected and appointed local and state officials in the 6 counties cited above.

We, the undersigned, do hereby petition all local and state officials cited above, and, those not cited that may have an impact on the outcome, to continue the Virginia State moratorium on Uranium Mining and Milling in Virginia, and, furthermore, to oppose and block any exploratory drilling for Uranium in the state of Virginia as well.


The Undersigned

View Current Signatures

Links to Documents

Example: Open Pit Uranium Mine, Ranger, Australia

Example: Open Pit Uranium Mine, Ranger, Australia
Coming Soon to Chatham, VA?

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