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November 4, 2007

Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Virginia Museum of Natural History will seek at least $180,000 from a firm that wants to analyze samples of the earth - collected in Pittsylvania County about 20 years ago - in the museum's possession.

The museum's board of trustees on Saturday voted unanimously to allow Executive Director Tim Gette to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with Virginia Uranium Inc. The vote was taken after a short closed session called to discuss a legal matter.

Virginia Uranium wants to do research on several "core samples of earth, rocks and other materials" the museum has dating back to the late 1980s, said board Chairman George Lyle.

The firm wants to see how much uranium oxide, also known as U308, and other metals are in those samples, said Walter Coles of Chatham, founder of Virginia Uranium.

The firm, Coles said in a phone interview, plans to ask the General Assembly to form a study commission to investigate whether uranium mining can be done "in a safe, environmentally friendly way."

If lawmakers find mining can be done safely, the firm will ask them to lift a state ban on uranium mining that has been in place for 25 years, as well as to set up the regulatory framework to mine uranium, he said.

Two large uranium deposits were found near Chatham about 25 years ago, and one is on property owned by Coles and his sister. They say the deposits are potentially worth billions of dollars, with uranium selling for $80 a pound, The Associated Press has reported.

Uranium is a valuable rare metal used in the production of nuclear power. It has not yet been determined how much the museum will charge Virginia Uranium to have the core samples analyzed, Lyle said.

He said, however, the museum will ask for a minimum of $60,000 a year for three years, as well as for analysis results to be shared with the museum.
Also Tuesday, the trustee board learned the museum now has the largest collection of Virginia mammal specimens. It adopted a resolution officially accepting the collection.

More than 16,000 specimens were transferred to the museum from the Virginia Commonwealth University Mammal Collection.

About 95 percent of the specimens are of animals native to Virginia. Nearly 70 percent are rodents, while about 25 percent are shrews and moles.

The collection also includes 50 of the 73 species of land mammals native to the state, Gette said.

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