The Supreme Court disappointed the Trump administration and an eager mining corporation by voting to keep the country’s largest uranium deposit underground. On June 17, the court voted six to three to uphold Virginia’s uranium mining ban in a move that re-confirms the sovereignty of states to determine the future of their natural resources and the protection of their environments.
The uranium deposit in question is worth an estimated $6 billion and is situated on a private estate in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Uranium is an essential ingredient for nuclear energy and contributes to about 20 percent of the country’s electricity production. Uranium is also an essential ingredient in nuclear weapons; therefore, control over its sources is critically important to the government and military.
Despite pressure from the federal government and legal challenges from Virginia Uranium, Inc., the state of Virginia passed a ban on uranium mining due to environmental and health concerns associated with its extraction.
“This is a big win for the health and safety of Virginians and our environment,” Attorney General for Virginia Mark Herring said of the Supreme Court ruling. “We are well within our rights as a state to decide that a risky, potentially dangerous activity like uranium mining is not for us.”
Uranium is a radioactive material, and the environmental concerns related to its extraction include contaminated water, soil and disrupted landscapes that cause major erosion and landslides.
Virginia Uranium, Inc. argued that the state is confiscating a nationally important resource. The corporation said it is disappointed with the ruling and plans to mount a new challenge after its argument that the federal-level Atomic Energy Act of 1954 governs nuclear energy development and supersedes any state ban proved unsuccessful in the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruling was written by Justice Neil Gorsch, who was appointed by President Trump in 2017.
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