By a slim majority, business leaders surveyed for the Uranium Working Group's socioeconomic report do not support lifting the 1982 moratorium on uranium mining, according to a new study released Tuesday.
The report, released by Gov. Bob McDonnell's office, gauges the potential business impacts that could be created by uranium mining and milling and surveys business leaders for their perception of whether the industry would have a positive or negative influence on economic development.
Paul Logan, deputy director of communications for McDonnell, said the governor would not be making a statement right away.
"He will review its findings along with his staff in the coming days, before deciding whether or not to make any recommendation on uranium mining in the commonwealth," Logan said. "As he has previously noted, the overriding consideration is whether uranium mining and milling can be conducted with a high degree of safety, and whether suitable assurances can be given that the air, water, health, and well-being of the citizens will be protected."
Herndon firm ORI surveyed 652 business leaders across the state, primarily from small businesses with 10 or fewer employees. Sixty percent were aware that the Virginia has uranium deposits in Pittsylvania County and that the commonwealth is considering whether or not to lift the moratorium.
The leaders surveyed have mixed opinions about how uranium mining and milling could affect them, and they are questioning their sources in forming their opinions.
"Commonwealth business leaders have low to moderate trust in the information that has been currently researched on the topic of uranium mining," the study said.
The study reports understanding of the technology and process used to extract uranium is low, but that concerns would decrease with better understanding.
"These results suggest that educating the public on uranium mining may reduce some of their fears, but that the source of the information must be perceived as trusted and unbiased," it said.
Other findings include:
--Business leaders surveyed hold the most concern for public waterworks and agriculture. They have the least concern for the potential stigma effects on public and private schools in the area.
--They are not concerned that it is unsafe to locate businesses near mining and milling operations. Respondents indicated that, on average, it was safe within nine miles of the mine.
--Uranium mining was perceived to bring business growth as a result of increased employment. However, business leaders were more likely to perceive a negative impact in the areas of revenue, expansion and diversity. Respondents were more likely to say that mining would have a negative impact on their own business revenue.
The study included a survey of site location consultants, but ORI had a difficult time obtaining responses, receiving only seven.
Virginia Uranium has been lobbying the legislature to lift a 1982 on uranium mining, hoping to mine a 119-million-pound ore deposit six miles from Chatham.
McDonnell formed the Uranium Working Group in January 2012 to research the potential benefits and pitfalls of allowing uranium mining and milling in Virginia.
The Uranium Working Group submitted its final report in December to governor, but it was missing the socioeconomic component. The group's contractor, Wright Engineering, had a difficult time finding a subcontractor that could do the work that didn't have ties to factions on either side of the uranium mining debate. The firm eventually contracted ORI to do the work, but the late start pushed back its completion past the December deadline.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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