Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Virginia’s Supreme Court won’t take up a challenge to the state’s uranium mining ban

Person holding sign
Steve Helber/AP
In this Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 file photo, protesters hold a sign during a meeting of the Virginia Uranium Mining Working Group final informational public hearing at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, Va. A three-decade ban on uranium mining in Virginia has put the richest known deposit of the radioactive ore in the U.S. off limits to mining. (Photo: Steve Helber/AP)

The Supreme Court of Virginia has refused Virginia Uranium’s appeal to overturn the state’s ban on uranium mining. The policy keeping the industry out of Virginia has been in place for nearly four decades.

Opponents of uranium mining say it’s risky to human health and the environment due to radioactive waste and the potential for groundwater contamination among other worries.

Virginia Uranium maintains it can prevent many of the environmental concerns including the contamination of groundwater, recreation sites and farms.

The company has said the ban is both illegal and unwise. It argues the state is trampling on its property rights by refusing to allow the company to mine the largest known uranium deposit in the U.S. on property it owns in Pittsylvania County.

The  U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that Virginia has the authority to ban uranium mining.  Attorney General Mark Herring, who is defending the state, said the state Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday affirms that right. Lawyers for Virginia Uranium argued  the state is indirectly interfering with federally-regulated nuclear-waste management by banning state-regulated mining.

Congress gave states the authority to regulate mining, or upstream development, and it’s up to the federal government to regulate downstream activities, including uranium production and the storage of radioactive waste. 

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
Related Stories