chatham star tribune on VA business Uranium survey...
A majority of Virginia’s business leaders oppose lifting the state’s 30-year moratorium on uranium mining, but said their concerns would likely decrease as they learn more about mining processes and safeguards, a recent survey concluded.
The survey by ORI, a Herndon market research firm, and Survey Sampling International, was conducted for the Uranium Working Group.
Appointed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, the uranium group included representatives from the mines, environmental, and health departments. It presented its report to the governor in November.
The business survey, conducted by telephone Nov. 15-30, was given to McDonnell last week.
ORI surveyed 652 business leaders from across the commonwealth on their knowledge and attitudes about a proposed uranium mine in Pittsylvania County.
Virginia Uranium Inc. is pressing state legislators to mine a huge uranium deposit about six miles northeast of Chatham.
Twenty percent of the interviews were conducted in Pittsylvania County and surrounding areas, including Campbell, Henry, and Halifax counties and Martinsville and Danville.
According to the survey, business leaders have “low to moderate trust” in the information that has been researched on uranium mining and their understanding of the technology and process used to extract uranium was “very low.”
“Respondents reported that although they have concerns about uranium mining, those concerns would decrease if they were to learn more about the processes and protections that are associated with the mining of uranium,” ORI said.
Business leaders were concerned that uranium mining might have a negative impact on children as well as the environment, workers and residents, housing property, public water supplies and agriculture.
They had the least amount of concern for elementary and secondary education, and private schools, the survey said.
The survey also asked how close, in terms of miles, business leaders would consider it safe to locate a business near the uranium mining and milling operations.
Respondents indicated that, on average, it was safe within nine miles of the mine, with a median response of 20 miles.
When asked about potential business benefits to the community resulting from mining, business leaders mostly agreed that uranium mining would encourage business growth in the area as a result of increased employment.
“However, when asked whether mining would have a negative or positive impact on several business facets such as revenue, expansion, and diversity, responses were more likely to perceive a negative rather than a positive impact,” ORI said.
The study also included a survey of regional and out-of-state business site location consultants.
When asked if the lifting of the ban on uranium mining in Virginia would affect their perceptions of Virginia as a place to recommend new business, six out of the seven consultants stated that it would have no impact on their perceptions of Virginia at all.
Virginia Uranium spokesman Patrick Wales said the survey confirmed that the more information people have about uranium mining, the more comfortable they feel.
“That's why as we move forward it will be important to addresses people's concerns and assure them of our commitment to safety and protecting the environment,” he said. “Virginia Uranium wholeheartedly agrees with the report’s ultimate conclusion that ‘all efforts to move forward should include a balanced approach between business growth and environmental protection.’” (end snip)