community members, with assistance from independent scientific experts, would identify monitoring needs of particular importance and contract for sampling and analysis by infrastructure different from that of the mine operator. A third line of monitoring could involve local authorities such as cities, municipal water purveyors, or local air pollution control districts, who could identify monitoring strategies focused on their specific jurisdictions. Funding for this third line could be derived from the “mill tax” on per kilowatt of energy derived from the mined uranium. Like that for the community TAG effort, analysis of these samples would be done by laboratory entities different from that of the mine operator. All monitoring described above would need to be conducted according to quality assurance/quality control specifications determined by the relevant regulator.
The committee recognizes that mining, processing, and reclamation, by nature, can cause long-term impacts to habitats (on the order of decades to centuries), hydrological alterations, and adverse changes to water quality. Virginia has extensive experience with mining and its impacts, and thus the primary focus of this chapter is on the specific environment impacts of uranium mining. The committee arrived at the following findings regarding the environmental impacts that might occur if the moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia were to be removed:
• Uranium mining, processing, and reclamation in Virginia have the potential to affect surface water quality and quantity, groundwater quality and quantity, soils, air quality, and biota. The impacts of these activities in Virginia would depend on site-specific conditions, the rigor of the monitoring program established to provide early warning of contaminant migration, and the efforts to mitigate and control potential impacts. A substantial literature exists that describes the environmental hazards resulting from past uranium mining that was largely conducted using standards of practice generally not acceptable today. Documented impacts include water quality effects (e.g., elevated concentrations of trace metals, arsenic, and uranium) caused by acid mine drainage or oxidation of groundwater, localized reduction of groundwater levels, off-site dust transport, and impaired populations of aquatic and terrestrial biota. If uranium mining, processing, and reclamation are designed, constructed, operated, and monitored according to modern international best practices (see Chapter 8), the committee anticipates that the near- to moderate-term environmental effects specific to uranium mining and processing should be substantially reduced. Nevertheless, studies at relatively modern uranium mines have documented acid mine drainage associated with waste rock piles and effects on aquatic biota from selenium and metals derived from treated effluent.
• Tailings disposal sites represent potential sources of contamination for thousands of years, and the long-term risks remain poorly defined. In recent