PO Box 14224 ~ Roanoke, Virginia 24038 ~ Phone (540) 312-3104 ~ Email:


September 26, 2011

Ann Rogers 540-312-3104
Karen Maute 434-429-4672


BREDL calls for systematic hydrological study to determine risk of radioactive contamination.

Roanoke, VA – Today the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League released a report documenting the presence of frequent and pervasive flooding at Coles Hill, the proposed uranium mine and mill site in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The report, titled, Historic and potential flooding at proposed uranium mine and mill site: Coles Hill, Pittsylvania County, Virginia, demonstrates not only that pervasive flooding regularly occurs throughout the Coles Hill site but also that flooding and other hydrological features would increase the risk of radioactive contamination, should the site eventually be used to store uranium mill tailings.

The principal finding of the BREDL’s report is: Above- and below-ground features at Coles Hill suggest that any uranium mill tailings storage operation there would create high risk of chronic and/or catastrophic release of radioactive contamination into the aquatic environment.

Karen Maute, president of Piedmont Residents in Defense of the Environment, a chapter of BREDL with members in Pittsylvania County, stated, “The industry is unable to concretely demonstrate that uranium mining, milling and waste storage can be done in a manner that safeguards human health and the environment. Any studies that attempt to address these and socioeconomic issues are hypothetical. Virginia puts itself and North Carolina at great risk if legislators lift the ban on uranium mining.”

Virginia Uranium, Inc., the company proposing to mine and mill uranium at Coles Hill, has been providing Virginia legislators expense-paid visits to decommissioned uranium mine and mill sites in France in Canada. Ann Rogers, the author of the League’s report, criticized this practice, saying, “These company-paid junkets must not be substituted for hard science as the basis on which the Virginia General Assembly decides whether to keep the ban on uranium mining in Virginia.” A vote on the ban may occur as early as January, 2012.

The report contains maps of Coles Hill showing the locations of three FEMA flood hazard zones aligned with Mill Creek, Whitethorn Creek, and the Banister River, all of which flow through the Coles Hill site. The maps show the location of three historic flood events that occurred within the proposed mine and mill site, including two on record with the National Weather Service, as well as the location less than two miles away where flooding associated with Hurricane Fran was videotaped in 1996. Another map contains date-stamped photographs demonstrating pervasive flooding at the site in November, 2009. Another shows the location of a spring and several acres of wetlands on the site.

The League’s report links evidence of flooding at Coles Hill with warnings from the International Atomic Energy Agency. IAEA contradicts many industry assurances that uranium mill tailing disposal sites are essentially maintenance free, stating, “There is no such thing as 'fail-safe' facilities for tailings management. Neither regulations, design specifications, nor management systems can be relied upon in isolation to provide assurance against containment failure: all three must be applied, in a framework of quality assurance and post-closure care and maintenance, to deliver a high probability of tailings containment security.”

BREDL calls for a systematic study of the hydrology at Coles Hill to determine whether mill tailings can be stored there with any assurance of safety throughout the 10,000 to 100,000-year period during which the tailings remain radioactive. This type of study has never been performed for Coles Hill.


Download BREDL Report with Attachments

Download BREDL Report without Attachments
Download Report Attachments:
Attachment A - FEMA flood zones and historic flood events at Coles Hill
Attachment B - Flood of November 11 & 12, 2009 - Coles Hill, VA
Attachment C - spring and wetlands at Coles Hill