RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.—A community advisory panel has been established to advise researchers at RTI International, who are working on a project to evaluate the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of a proposed uranium mine near Danville, Va.
The community advisory panel comprises five members who are actively involved in the community and who are not involved with the proposed mine. All five panel members are undecided about the mine and mill, pending completion of the RTI study and others late this year.
The panel members include:
- Rev. Larry Campbell, Jr., Danville City Council
- Jeff Liverman, executive director, Danville Science Center
- Laurie Moran, president of the Danville-Pittsylvania Chamber of Commerce
- Dan Sleeper, county administrator, Pittsylvania County
- Martha Walker, community viability specialist, Virginia Cooperative Extension Service
The proposed mine would be developed by Virginia Uranium, Inc. and located between the towns of Chatham and Gretna in Pittsylvania County, Va.
The community advisory panel members were recruited from a pool of candidates selected by identifying leaders in community organizations, education, environmental groups, local governments, and business. The community advisory panel members will provide ongoing insight into community perspectives on the mine and mill and feedback on the RTI research project.
With funding from the Danville Regional Foundation, RTI's research team will study potential impacts of the mine and mill on employment, regional business development and competitiveness, and consumer spending. Researchers will also evaluate potential pollutant releases to the environment under different mining, milling and waste management technologies. They will then analyze how those pollutants might move through the environment and how they might affect residents, plants and animal life.
Researchers will also explore perceptions of the region and will assess changes in the region's quality of life and reputation from the development and operation of the mine and mill. Additionally, the team will study the impacts the mine and mill might place upon infrastructure, government services, and government finances in the study region.
The community advisory panel is one avenue for gathering information about community priorities, values and concerns.
"We hope our research will provide area decision makers and residents with scientifically sound information about the potential direct and indirect impacts of the mine and mill within a 50-mile radius of the Coles Hill site," said Katherine Heller of RTI's Energy, Technology and Environmental Economics program and the project's director. "It's essential that we have community feedback and participation to accurately assess the potential impacts of the proposed mine and to ensure our research meets the region's needs."
In addition to receiving ongoing input from the community advisory panel, researchers will hold 30 stakeholder interviews with community leaders who represent educational, environmental, faith, business, community development, government, health care, news media and agriculture perspectives. They also will conduct eight focus groups in the region for community citizens.
In two preliminary meetings, the community advisory panel members brainstormed issues surrounding the mine and mill that are of greatest concern based on their perception of regional residents' opinions and discussed plans for interviews of stakeholders who represent community organizations, education, environmental groups, local governments and business.
The uranium deposit at Coles Hill was discovered more than 30 years ago and has been described as one of the richest undeveloped deposits of uranium in the United States. However, the Commonwealth of Virginia has had a moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia since 1982, and thus no development has occurred at the site.