April 25, 2019


Frank M. Ruff, Jr.  

15th District

Senate of Virginia 


     For some, this column may not appear important to you. Others consider it very important. I want to give you an update about the issue of uranium mining in Virginia. Those who live downstream to the proposed mining site understand the issue. Those outside the Roanoke River Basin may think the issue is not relevant to them because they live outside the affected area. However, understand that we are a Commonwealth. Something that has a significant impact, good or bad affecting one region, can affect a greater region.
     In the near future, the U.S. Supreme Court will release their opinion on the issue of the right of the Virginia General Assembly to block mining of uranium for the safety of Virginians. Oral arguments were last fall. Their opinion should be soon.
     Forty years ago, the General Assembly blocked mining of uranium in Virginia. That action was based on concerns about the risk to those downstream from Pittsylvania County through Halifax, Mecklenburg, and Brunswick Counties before the Roanoke River flows into North Carolina. As well, Virginia Beach would be affected because they draw drinking water from the basin. The legislative action was based on this area, however, there is also uranium to the north that, if mined, could endanger those in Fairfax County.
     The corporation that owns the majority of ore is a Canadian company with unknown international connections. They have been trying to change Virginia's actions of a generation before. The legislators that represent the region have successfully stopped each attempt. Seven years ago, I successfully blocked such a bill in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

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     While some believe that it can be done safely, the fact is that long-term public safety must be the issue to consider, not some theoretical study. It might be safe most of the time, however, if something goes wrong just one time it could affect the health and life of those downstream and not just downstream, but the major groundwater source in the region of piedmont Virginia and North Carolina.
     The federal government did not oversee companies mining uranium ore in the western states, believing that with limited rainfall it would be safe. They even believed that testing of nuclear bombs underground would be safe. Not until after those bombs went off did they realize that the explosions created cracks in the underground rock. Over the years, underground water has been contaminated and that contaminated water is slowly moving toward Las Vegas. To get the uranium ore out of the ground, it would require dynamiting the rock, risking cracking the rock that protects the water deep under the rock.
   The plan is to grind up (mill) the rocks that contain the ore and then place the remnants into the holes they have created. Those remnants will still be radioactive. During that process, the milled material will be stored above ground for some time. If we were to have the storms as we have over the last year, there is a real concern that it will be washed into the river and lakes downstream. The half-life of that radioactive material would remain in the lakes far longer than the lives of anyone in the basin. 

     Even if one chooses to ignore these direct risks, there is the reality that people will do what is best for themselves. The perfect example is the businessman who bought a Danville business. He told me that his wife would not move to the region as long as this hangs over the community. Doctors in the Danville area have spoken of moving from the region if mining occurs. Home owners on the lake understand that the lakes are a great place to live, however, they are concerned that, if this is an issue when they choose to sell, will there be buyers. Currently, the issue may well be holding down prices.
     Speaking with one voice, your legislators in the basin understand that even the consideration of mining is dangerous. Whatever the Supreme Court opines, you have my commitment that this is a fight that I will continue to fight.

     We love to hear from you!  You can reach us at Sen.Ruff@verizon.net, 434-374-5129, or P. O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA  23927.

Jesters Cap  

I've started telling everyone about the benefits of eating dried grapes.
It's all about raisin awareness. 


    Warmest regards,    


Frank M. Ruff, Jr. 

15th District

Senate of Virginia


Authorized and paid for by Ruff for Senate