Issues at Operating Uranium Mines and Mills - Ranger, Australia
(last updated 11 Sep 2021)
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> View Closure of Ranger Pit 3 open pit mine
> View Ranger Expansion Project (Ranger 3 Deeps)
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ERA no longer reports remaining resources and reserves for Ranger
The expiry of the right to mine and process under the Ranger Section 41 extinguishes any reasonable prospects for eventual economic extraction of previously reported Mineral Resources, as is required by Section 20 of the JORC Code 2012.
As a result, the ERA Ore Reserves and Mineral Resources Statement no longer reports any Ore Reserves and Mineral Resources for the RPA [Ranger Project Area] and reports only the MLN1 Jabiluka Resources.
(ERA Feb. 15, 2021)
Ranger uranium mine and mill finally closed down
On Jan. 8, 2021, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) announced that all mining and processing activities at its Ranger uranium mine will conclude on this day.
ERA further announced that, due to current market conditions and the imminent decommissioning of the Ranger mill, development of the Ranger 3 Deeps deposit remains uneconomic. ERA therefore expects to close the Ranger 3 Deeps decline.
Supervising Scientist supports approval of Ranger Mine Closure Plan, in spite of deficiencies
"The 2020 RMCP [Ranger Mine Closure Plan] again represents an improvement over the previous version and benefits from the additional knowledge gained through the extensive work undertaken over the preceding year. Nevertheless, the 2020 RMCP does not yet provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the rehabilitation works proposed will satisfy the Environmental Requirements. In particular, the predictions of post-closure surface water quality are not yet finalised; significant additional studies are required on ecosystem establishment; a radiation dose assessment is yet to be completed; it is not yet known how the residual contamination beneath the tailings dam will be managed; and it has not yet been determined what level of environmental effect within the Ranger Project Area (RPA) would be considered "As Low as Reasonably Achievable". However, work to address all these issues is underway, and in many cases well advanced, and is expected to be included in future versions of the plan.
Approval of the high-level rehabilitation plan outlined in the 2020 RMCP is supported; however, it is noted that approval for several major rehabilitation activities will be provided over coming years through stand-alone applications. ERA has foreshadowed separate applications for Pit 3 Closure, Final Landform and Revegetation and the Tailings Storage Facility Deconstruction. Consequently, these aspects of the 2020 RMCP cannot yet be "approved"."
Assessment of 2020 Ranger Mine Closure Plan Rev #: 1.20.0 , Supervising Scientist, Australian Government, Dec. 2020
NGO Report raises issues about Ranger rehabilitation plan
Plans for cleaning up the site of the Ranger uranium mine, which closes in January -- and incorporating it into Australia's largest national park, Kakadu -- are being hampered by an unrealistic five-year rehabilitation time frame, uncertainty over funding and fears about a tailings dam leaking toxic contaminants into the surrounding national park.
These are some of the issues raised in a new report, Closing Ranger, protecting Kakadu, released by the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney , the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), the Mineral Policy Institute and the Environment Centre NT .
The report reviews the 2020 Ranger Mine Closure Plan and finds the objective that a rehabilitated Ranger site be incorporated into Kakadu National Park is being hindered by:
> View: ACF release Dec. 16, 2020
- An unrealistic mandated time frame that requires rehabilitation being complete by 2026
- Data deficiencies and technical issues, particularly around groundwater and tailings management
- A proposal to leave the floor of the tailings dam in situ, risking contaminants entering Kakadu
> Download: Closing Ranger, Protecting Kakadu , Dec. 2020
> Download: ERA Response, Dec. 17, 2020
Higher cancer rates in Kakadu region not linked to radiation from Ranger Uranium Mine, report finds
A six-year investigation by the Northern Territory Government into an apparent cancer cluster in Aboriginal communities near the Ranger Uranium Mine in Kakadu has found "no evidence that environmental ionizing radiation was responsible for the excess cancers or fetal deaths".
(ABC Nov 27, 2020)
> Download: Gunbalanya-Kakadu Disease Cluster Investigation Final Report , Northern Territory Department of Health, Nov. 2020 (1.7MB PDF)
ERA in dispute with Federal Government over costs of independent monitoring for Ranger uranium mine
ERA is in dispute with the Federal Government over paying for scientific monitoring of the mine. The company does not want to continue paying the $2.5 million in annual funding for an independent monitoring agency for the mine, called the Supervising Scientists Branch. (ABC Oct. 20, 2020)
ERA releases annual update to closure plan for Ranger uranium mine
On Oct. 2, 2020, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) announced the release of an update to the Ranger Mine Closure Plan. The Plan is updated annually in consultation with Traditional Owner representatives, regulators and key stakeholders.
> Access 2020 Ranger Mine Closure Plan update (ERA)
ERA wants to pull out of funding commitment for independent monitoring at Ranger uranium mine
Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has flagged it wants to pull out of paying $2.5 million a year for the Supervising Scientist Branch independent monitoring agency, which it funds with the Commonwealth, at the end of June.
(ABC May 19, 2020)
Supervising Scientist issues revised water quality objectives for creeks near Ranger uranium mine
> Download: A review of Water Quality Objectives for Magela Creek and Gulungul Creek , by K Turner, K Tayler, JWR Tyrrell, A Leggett, Internal Report 670, July 2019
Takeovers Panel removes obstacle to funding plan for rehabilitation of Ranger mine
On Jan. 20, 2020, the Takeovers Panel's Review Panel "removed the orders prohibiting Rio Tinto from compulsorily acquiring shares in ERA as a consequence of the Entitlement Offer, and considered it was appropriate to require Rio Tinto to form intentions regarding compulsory acquisition and to require ERA to provide further disclosure of Rio Tinto's intentions to its shareholders."
(ERA Jan. 20, 2020)
Supervising Scientist issues favorable assessment of updated Ranger Mine Closure Plan, provided outstanding information is supplied
"The 2019 version of the RMCP [Ranger Mine Closure Plan] contains significantly more detail compared to the 2018 version. [...] While the Plan clearly demonstrates that work has been progressing rapidly, there is still a large amount of outstanding information required to address key knowledge gaps. [...]
> Download: Supervising Scientist Assessment Report of 2019 Ranger Mine Closure Plan , December 2019
The main area of concern for the Supervising Scientist is in relation to contaminant transport modelling, which is required to assess whether or not the planned rehabilitation activities will prevent future environmental impacts from mine contaminants. [...] At this point in time, the Supervising Scientist does not believe there is sufficient information provided to support the statements in the RMCP that contaminants from the landform do not pose a risk to the downstream environment. [...]
Provided ERA address the comments and recommendations contained in this assessment report, including addressing the Ranger Key Knowledge Needs, the 2019 RMCP satisfies the requirements of ER [Environmental Requirement] 9.1."
Takeovers Panel rules funding plan for rehabilitation of Ranger mine unacceptable
The Takeovers Panel has ruled that Rio Tinto's move to back Energy Resources of Australia (ERA)'s funding plan for rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory is unacceptable.
Rio Tinto's plans to support ERA's A$476 million raising would dilute the stakes of minority shareholders, according to the Takeovers Panel.
The minority shareholders would be required to invest substantial capital to maintain their stake in ERA and avoid dilution.
(Australian Mining Dec. 12, 2019)
Rio Tinto to contribute $221 million to funding of Ranger uranium mine closure
Rio Tinto said it will subscribe to US$221 million rights shares of Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA), which has been desperately seeking funds to close and rehabilitate a controversial uranium mine.
The world's second-biggest listed miner, which has a 68.4% stake in ERA, also said it will fully underwrite ERA's A$476 million (US$326 million) equity fundraising, after the uranium miner failed to secure someone else willing to do so.
(Reuters Nov. 15, 2019)
ERA releases updated Closure Plan for Ranger uranium mine
On Oct. 2, 2019, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) announced the release of an update to the Ranger Mine Closure Plan. The Plan is updated annually in consultation with Traditional Owner representatives, regulators and key stakeholders.
> Access 2019 Mine Closure Plan update (ERA)
Rio Tinto to help with reclamation cost of Ranger uranium mine
Energy Resources Of Australia Ltd (ERA) said on Thursday (July 25) its majority owner Rio Tinto had offered to help underwrite part of the cost of rehabilitating the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory.
ERA said it had total cash resources of A$425 million ($296 million) at June 30, while the rehabilitation provision was A$799 million.
Rio had indicated it was only willing to provide financial support through a renounceable entitlement offer by ERA, the uranium miner said in a statement.
Rio would subscribe for its 68.4% entitlement of new shares, but had also offered to underwrite the balance of the offer in the event that the company is unable to get alternative underwriters.
(Reuters July 25, 2019)
Report identifies need for improvements with clean-up of Ranger uranium mine to address long-term risks for Kakadu national park
A new report has found Australia's largest national park is at long-term risk unless the clean-up of the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu is done comprehensively and effectively.
Unfinished business, co-authored by the Sydney Environment Institute (SEI) at the University of Sydney and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), identifies significant data deficiencies, a lack of clarity around regulatory and governance frameworks and uncertainty over the adequacy of current and future financing - especially in relation to future monitoring and mitigation works for the controversial mine site.
Mine operator Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) and parent company Rio Tinto are required to clean up the site to a standard suitable for inclusion in the surrounding Kakadu National Park, dual-listed on UNESCO's World Heritage list.
(ACF/SEI May 7, 2019)
> View: ACF/SEI release May 7, 2019
> Download report: Unfinished Business - Rehabilitating the Ranger uranium mine , May 7, 2019
Decommissioning cost estimate for Ranger uranium mine increases further to A$ 830 million
Energy Resources Australia, owned by mining giant Rio Tinto, on Friday (Feb. 8) flagged a higher-than-expected rehabilitation provision for its Ranger uranium project as costs from additional treatment and contingency plans rose.
The uranium miner said in a statement that the rehabilitation provision for its Northern Territory project was now estimated at A$830 million ($587 million) as of Dec. 31, compared with a previous estimate of A$808 million as at Dec. 6.
(Reuters Feb. 8, 2019)
Decommissioning cost estimate for Ranger uranium mine increases by 58% to A$ 808 million - only half of which is covered by available funds (!)
On Dec. 6, 2018, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) provided an update on the preliminary findings of the Ranger Project Area closure Feasibility Study.
The preliminary findings highlight an increase in the estimated cost of the rehabilitation program with a likely rise in the rehabilitation provision from $512 million to $808 million, an increase of $296 million.
ERA had total cash at bank of $338 million at 30 November 2018 (unaudited). In addition to cash at bank, ERA had $75 million of cash held by the Commonwealth Government as part of the Ranger Rehabilitation Trust Fund, bringing total cash resources to $413 million.
Supervising Scientist releases assessment of ERA's Closure Plan for Ranger uranium mine
"The Supervising Scientist has completed a detailed assessment of the Ranger Mine Closure Plan, and this report makes a number of recommendations to ensure the best possible environmental outcomes can be achieved."
> Download: Assessment Report: Ranger Mine Closure Plan Rev#: 0.18.0, May 2018 , September 2018
ERA releases Closure Plan for Ranger uranium mine
On June 5, 2018, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) released its Ranger Mine Closure Plan. ERA is required to cease mining and processing activities in the Ranger Project Area by January 2021, with final rehabilitation to be completed by January 2026.
> Access Closure Plan (ERA)
ERA forced to write down value of Ranger uranium mine assets
Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia has been forced to slash the value of its assets by $161 million, almost equal to the company's remaining sharemarket value.
With its controversial Ranger mine, which is surrounded by the Kakadu National Park, scheduled to close within five years, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) had questioned the way ERA valued its assets in its December 31, 2015 financial report.
The miner had now conceded that the value at which it carried the Ranger mine assets in its books "exceeded fair value", ASIC said in a statement on Tuesday (Aug. 30).
ERA pointed to weakness in the uranium oxide price at a time when the mine had only a five-year life left, without an extension of its authority to mine, as reasons for booking the impairment.
The write-down compares with ERA's sharemarket worth of just $173 million, which signals deep-seated investor pessimism over its prospects in light of the traditional land owners' opposition to extending the operation of the mine.
(Sydney Morning Herald Aug. 30, 2016)
Government reduces oversight of Ranger uranium mine
The controversial Ranger uranium mine in the Top End has had its independent government oversight depleted just years before its closure in a move the local Aboriginal organisation describes as "absurd".
Since December, the Supervising Scientist Branch - the agency under the federal environment department enforcing standards at the giant mine - has halted atmospheric testing of radon and other radioactive dust from the project owned by Energy Resources of Australia.
"The decision to end atmospheric monitoring seems absurd in these twilight years of the Ranger operation when you have progressive rehabilitation, and you have the certainty of increased movement of material, particularly in the dry season, creating significant dust," said Justin O'Brien, chief executive officer of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corp (GAC), the body that helps manage funds paid by Ranger to the Mirarr clan.
(Sydney Morning Herald Aug. 28, 2016)
ERA to sell stockpiled uranium to cover cost for Ranger mine closure
Rio Tinto's Energy Resources of Australia said on Wednesday (May 4) it plans to sell uranium from a stockpile over the next four years to fund the closure of its Ranger mine, while it tries to keep options open to develop a new mine.
The company says it expects rehabilitation of Ranger, including filling up the the mine pits, will cost around A$509 million [US$ 386 million], after having spent more than A$405 million [US$ 307 million] over the past four years.
(Reuters May 4, 2016)
Ranger mine starts relocation of tailings into Pit No. 3
On Apr. 29, 2016, Energy Resources of Australia announced that the transferring of the tailings has started from the Ranger Mine's Tailings Storage Facility for final deposition into Pit 3. The process will take five years and relocate 26 million tonnes of tailings into Pit 3.
Supervising Scientist issues revised water quality objectives for creeks near Ranger uranium mine, cutting uranium standard by more than half, among others
> Download: A review of Water Quality Objectives for Magela Creek and Gulungul Creek , by K Turner, K Tayler and J Tyrrell, December 2015
Rio Tinto offers A$100 million loan of last resort to assure rehabilitation of Ranger uranium mine
Rio Tinto will offer a $100 million loan of last resort to uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia in a bid to ensure the redundant miner can fully fund its rehabilitation obligations in the heart of Kakadu National Park.
In a move that ends years of uncertainty over how the rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mining precinct in the Northern Territory would be funded, Rio has decided to make the extra cash available to the company in which it holds a 69 per cent stake.
ERA had warned in recent annual reports that its rehabilitation provisions may not be sufficient to fund rehabilitation of the Ranger mine, which is surrounded by the world heritage listed national park.
ERA had sought permission, unsuccessfully, to continue mining at the site beyond the end of its 2021 Ranger lease, in a bid to raise more funds for the rehabilitation.
But Rio's offer of a $100 million credit facility means ERA should have no trouble funding the rehabilitation by the 2026 deadline.
(Sydney Morning Herald Apr. 29, 2016)
Ranger uranium mine's Pit 1 capped as part of ongoing site rehabilitation
An open cut pit at the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory has been capped after 20 years of rehabilitation work.
Energy Resources Australia (ERA) began filling in Pit 1 after mining in the pit ceased in 1996, with work continuing intermittently around other activities at the site, which is surrounded by Kakadu National Park.
Leftovers from the processing operations at the mine, known as tailings, were dumped into the large pit and left to settle.
General manager of operations at the Ranger mine, Tim Eckersley said the tailings were a "sandy, muddy mixture so it has taken quite some years to consolidate."
"We have aided that consolidation by putting what we call wicks in there, they effectively work like drinking straws to draw water out of the tailings," he said.
"Around 2013 we had enough strength in the tailings and started to put a rock cap on Pit 1."
The laterite rock capping is designed to act as a weight to draw more water out of the tailings.
A final backfill and landscaping of Pit 1 will begin this year.
"We will start to put somewhere in the order of 10 million tonnes of rock [on top of the Pit 1 capping]," Mr Eckersley said.
"Then we can go through landscaping and shaping civil works through to revegetating with plants."
(ABC Mar. 9, 2016)
Supervising Scientist proposes lower operational limit for the water 226Ra activity concentration downstream of Ranger mine
Based on an assessment for human consumption of mussels, the Supervising Scientist comes to the conclusion that the above background water radium-226 (226Ra) activity concentration at the Magela Creek compliance site should be lowered from 10 mBq/L to 3 mBq/L.
> Download: A revised operational limit for the water 226Ra activity concentration downstream of Ranger mine , Internal Report 643, Department of the Environment, 2016
Weed control fire escapes Ranger uranium mine site and threatens important rock art sites in Kakadu National Park
One of Kakadu National Park's most significant cultural sites has been closed to tourists due to a fire that began last week in the neighbouring Ranger uranium mine.
Parks Australia, the federal body responsible for the park, said the fire was within the area of Nourlangie Rock, and the site had been closed for public safety.
The rock features Indigenous rock art showing early contact with Europeans as well as other art up to 50,000 years old.
Parks said the fire began when the mine's operator, Energy Resources Australia (ERA), undertook weed management burning within the mine last week.
On Thursday (Oct. 1) the fire escaped the mine's boundary and entered the national park.
(ABC Oct. 6, 2015)
ERA seeks funding from Rio Tinto for Ranger uranium mine rehabilitation, as expansion project put on hold
ERA said it had engaged its major shareholder, Rio Tinto, about funding to rehabilitate the mine site, which is completely ensconced by Kakadu National Park.
The company previously said rehabilitation was funded under its current business plan, but if the 3 Deeps expansion did not go ahead it would require another source of funding to pay for all of the rehabilitation works.
(ABC June 11, 2015)
Media banned from Energy Resources of Australia AGM after concerns about Ranger uranium mine rehabilitation
Media outlets have been banned from the annual general meeting of a Rio Tinto-owned company that operates the Ranger Uranium Mine in the Northern Territory amid concerns the company does not have enough money to rehabilitate the site once it finishes production.
(ABC Apr. 14, 2015)
Tailings disposal starts in Ranger mine's former Pit 3 open pit mine
For the first time tailings waste from the site's milling operations has been transferred directly to the mine's last open pit, Pit 3, following careful preparation to ready the pit for tailings storage.
"So far Pit 1 has been backfilled with tailings and preliminary rock capping put in place. As of last month, Pit 3 began receiving tailings directly from our processing mill, for permanent storage.
In a couple of months we are scheduled to commission a dredge and infrastructure to transfer dredged material from the Tailings Storage Facility into Pit 3. We are also scheduled to begin brine storage in Pit 3 from the Brine Concentrator.
Last year we completed the initial backfill of Pit 3, with more than 33 million tonnes of waste rock placed into the base of the pit, and the installation of in-pit drainage and an extraction pump system to convert the pit into a storage repository for brine and tailings," said Ranger mine General Manager Operations, Tim Eckersley.
"We've installed extensive drainage works across the floor of the pit, while a water extraction bore system has been installed to transfer water removed from the pit to the Tailings Storage Facility.
Later this year we are scheduled to commission a custom-designed, stainless steel dredge built in Queensland to dredge tailings from the Tailings Storage Facility for containment in Pit 3."
(ERA Mar. 2, 2015)
Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) reduces reclamation cost estimate for Ranger mine citing technological advances
"ERA's Integrated Tailings, Water and Closure Study has continued to optimise the rehabilitation plan for the Ranger Project Area. This review resulted in a decrease to the provision of $74 million.
The provision for rehabilitation represents the net present cost for rehabilitation as at 31 December 2014 and stands at $512 million (2013: $603 million). The key changes related to the use of more efficient technology in thickening tailings transferred from the existing Tailings Storage Facility to Pit 3.
The overall rehabilitation strategy remains unchanged."
(Energy Resources of Australia (ERA): Annual Report 2014 - 5.6MB PDF)
Rio Tinto refuses guarantee to cover reclamation cost of Ranger mine
Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh has refused to guarantee that his company will cover the cost of rehabilitating the Ranger uranium mine near Kakadu, building on uncertainty that was created last month by the Rio subsidiary in charge of the mine.
Energy Resources of Australia - which is 68 per cent owned by Rio - raised eyebrows when it revealed it may need to find new sources of money to meet its rehabilitation commitments for Ranger, which is entirely surrounded by Kakadu National Park.
Under the Ranger permit, ERA must have rehabilitated the site by 2026, and a review of the rehabilitation strategy in 2013 found the cost would be A$ 603 million on a net present cost basis.
ERA has A$ 357 million on hand and has ceased mining at Ranger, with the company now exploring for more uranium underground in a bid to find future revenue streams.
In an unusual move, ERA appeared to link the success of that exploration project - known as Ranger 3 Deeps - to its ability to pay for the rehabilitation of the site.
"If the Ranger 3 Deeps mine is not developed, in the absence of any other successful development, ERA may require an additional source of funding to fully fund the rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area," the company said in its annual report.
Such an outcome would be unusual, as miners are typically compelled to pay for the rehabilitation at the end of a mine's life through provisions that are made each year.
In ERA's case, some rehabilitation is already underway and it maintains a trust with the Australian Government which was holding A$ 63.9 million at December 31.
When asked at Tuesday night's (Apr. 15) annual meeting of Rio shareholders in London, Mr Walsh indicated he was in no mood to pick up the tab for ERA, particularly after Rio took part in a A$ 500 million equity raising for the company in 2011.
(Sydney Morning Herald Apr. 16, 2014)
ERA's provisions for rehabilitation of Ranger mine may be insufficient
"In addition, if the Ranger 3 Deeps mine is not developed, in the absence of any other successful development, ERA may require an additional source of funding to fully fund the rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area." (ERA Annual Report 2013, p.17)
> Download Energy Resources of Australia Ltd: Annual Report 2013 (5.4MB PDF )
This statement was reiterated in ERA's 2014 Annual Report.
Waste water treatment plant opened at Ranger mine
The uranium miner that is surrounded by Kakadu National Park has taken a big step towards survival, by opening a new A$220 million device to handle its waste-water problem.
The new brine concentrator at Energy Resources Australia's Ranger mine was formally opened on Thursday (Sep. 19), resolving an issue that has dogged the mine over recent years of extremely heavy rainfall in the Top End.
Record high rainfall in early 2011 filled Ranger's uranium waste-water dams, sparking fears that the surrounding national park could be affected.
The concentrator will purify 1.8 billion litres each year, and the water will be gradually released to the environment through a series of ponds.
Environmental groups said the concentrator was well overdue for a company that has been mining in the NT for close to 30 years.
(The Age Sep. 19, 2013)
Bill clears the way for the resolution of the Jabiru native title claim
New legislation introduced in federal Parliament clears the way for the resolution of the Northern Territory's longest-running native title claim.
The bill formalises the handover of the Jabiru native title claim area, including the Jabiru township in Kakadu National Park, under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
It clears the way for Jabiru to be handed back to traditional owners under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation represents the Mirarr traditional owners.
Executive officer Justin O'Brien says the legislation provides certainty to everyone with a stake in the region.
"Once the scheduling is done, once the Jabiru area is added to the Land Rights Act, negotiations can commence to issue a head lease over the town and, ultimately, withdraw the long-running native title claim over the town," he said.
(ABC Mar. 22, 2013)
Ranger mining agreement
Traditional Owners, ERA reach new Ranger mining agreement:
Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia has signed an agreement with traditional owners in a major breakthrough for the company at its Ranger mine.
It does not address any new mining at Ranger 3 Deeps or Jabiluka.
Instead it covers additional benefits for the Mirarr people and sets out ways they can work with the company in the future.
(NT News Jan. 24, 2013)
> Download Mirarr release Jan. 24, 2013 (PDF)
> Download ERA release Jan. 24, 2013 (PDF)
Ranger mining agreement with Traditional Owners to address historical issues:
"The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC), which represents the Mirarr Traditional Owners, and Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) have made significant progress in recent weeks towards finalising a suite of agreements covering the Ranger Project Area (RPA). The agreements cover existing mining and processing operations on the RPA. They do not consider the future of mining beyond the existing Ranger Authority or underground mining."
> View: ERA release Nov. 29, 2012
ERA prepares tailings backfill into decommissioned Ranger Pit 3 open pit mine
"Following the completion of the initial backfill of Pit 3 in the September 2014 quarter, the infrastructure to enable Pit 3 to receive tailings for final deposition was installed. [...]
In 2013, the ERA Board approved the construction of a dredge and tailings transfer
infrastructure to transfer tailings from the current Tailings Storage Facility into Pit 3 for final storage. This project commenced construction in 2014 for an estimated total cost of $69 million. Commissioning is scheduled to be completed by mid-2015."
(ERA Feb. 6, 2015)
Open pit mining at Ranger mine completed
On 7 December 2012, ERA announced that open cut mining has been completed at ERA's Ranger mine after more than 30 years.
The last of the ore from Pit 3 was extracted in the last week of November, with all in-situ reserves in the pit successfully mined.
Open cut mining at ERA started in 1980, with mining in Pit 1 completed in late 1994.
Development of Pit 3 started in 1996 and mining of the Pit 3 ore body started in 1997.
Work on backfilling the pit has now started, with the first phase of these works expected to be completed by the end of 2014. During this time, 30 million tonnes of material will be backfilled into the pit.
Mining of Ranger Pit 3 to finish in December 2012
The company said mining of its Pit 3 at the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu National Park would finish next month, with backfilling of 30 million tonnes of earth to start in December in the mine's rehabilitation process.
The backfilling will decrease Ranger's mineral resources, ERA said, adding that work to quantify the impact was in train.
ERA has 1.4 million tonnes of stockpiled ore containing 2300 tonnes of uranium waiting to go into its plant before the middle of next year. After that, it will use other stockpiled ore.
"ERA will be a stockpile miner in 2013, as the transition from open-pit mining to planning for an underground mine continues," the company said.
(The Australian Nov. 27, 2012)
Independent water study at Ranger mine makes recommendations to "ensure that the surface water management system continues to be best leading practice"
On March 21, 2013, the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC), representing the Mirarr Traditional Owners, and Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) released the findings and the 15 recommendations of the Independent Surface Water Working Group (ISWWG) that was established in May 2012 to review surface water management and monitoring associated with the Ranger mine, located in the Northern Territory.
The main findings of the ISWWG are: (1) The current surface water management and regulatory systems in place at the Ranger mine are of a very high standard; and (2) An agreed action plan is needed to ensure that the surface water management system continues to be best leading practice.
> Download: Indepent Surface Water Working Group: Review of the surface water management and monitoring associated with the Ranger Uranium Mine, Northern Territory, Australia, January 2013: Volume 1 - Main Report (15.9MB PDF - ERA)
ERA and Traditional Owners agree on water study at Ranger mine
On March 1, 2012, the Mirarr Traditional Aboriginal Owners of the Ranger Project Area and miner Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) announced the establishment of an independent surface water study at the Ranger mine.
The independent Ranger surface water study, modelled on a similar groundwater study two years ago, will examine the impacts, monitoring and reporting of surface waters flowing from the Ranger mine. An independent water expert is expected to be appointed within weeks.
ERA announces decision to improve waste water management at Ranger mine
On Nov. 30, 2011, ERA announced that part of the proceeds of an Entitlement Offer will be used to fund the construction of a brine concentrator for an estimated cost of A$220 million and other water management initiatives for an estimated cost of A$52 million.
Other projects to be financed include the construction of the Ranger 3 Deeps exploration decline and associated exploration drilling for an estimated cost of A$120 million, among others.
ERA scraps heap leach project at Ranger uranium mine
Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has decided to scrap its proposed Heap Leach Facility at the Ranger Mine in the Northern Territory.
The proposed facility was designed to process low-grade uranium ore in stockpiles at the mine, located inside Kakadu National Park.
ERA says it decided not to proceed with the project because of high capital costs and an uncertain level of support from stakeholders.
The half-year results also show a net loss for the company of about $122 million.
ERA blames the result on the suspension of operations at Ranger for six months because of the wet season.
The company says it plans to cut operational costs by $150 million over the next three and a half years.
But it says it is still pursuing its 3 Deeps project, a proposed underground mine which would be established just north of the Ranger site.
(ABC Aug. 4, 2011)
Delay of waste water treatment at Ranger uranium mine attacked
An environmental engineer says Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) should not have reopened its uranium mine within Kakadu National Park last month without committing to a waste water treatment plan.
The company had to stop processing uranium ore for five months during the Northern Territory wet season because its radioactive tailings dam got too close to capacity.
ERA says it plans to spend $80 million on a feasibility study to build a brine concentrator at the Ranger uranium mine by late 2013.
In the meantime, it will raise the dam wall.
Gavin Mudd from Monash University has been studying the environmental impacts of the ERA mine, which has been majority-owned by Rio Tinto for a decade.
He is worried the company is not planning to start processing its radioactive waste water for two more wet seasons.
Dr Mudd says building the water plant should not depend on whether ERA expands its mine and processing plant.
(ABC July 5, 2011)
Processing to restart at Ranger mine
Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) says it will begin a progressive restart of processing operations at its troubled Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory on Wednesday (June 15).
ERA, which is 68.4 per cent held by Rio Tinto Ltd, was forced in late January to suspend uranium processing operations at the mine for the remainder of the wet season after heavy rains filled the tailings dam to near capacity.
ERA said good dry season conditions in the Top End had allowed work to restart at Ranger on Wednesday.
"ERA expects that it will take approximately one month for the processing plant to return to normal production levels."
(Sydney Morning Herald June 14, 2011)
Ranger mine workers not covered by Australia's Radiation Dose Register
> View here
ERA urged to improve water management at Ranger mine without delay
An environmental scientist is calling on a uranium miner in Kakadu National Park to urgently improve its water management or it risks serious harm to the environment.
Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) suspended operations at the Ranger uranium mine processing plant earlier this year because of concerns the toxic tailings dam was almost at capacity.
ERA has now announced it is commissioning an $80 million study into the feasibility of building a brine concentrator to separate dangerous substances from the water.
Dr Gavin Mudd from Monash University in Melbourne says the research will delay any decision to go ahead and build the concentrator.
"It is still in the future," he said. "It is still a year away or more and that is not good enough."
(ABC May 2, 2011)
Suspension of uranium processing operations at Ranger mine extended for another three months
On April 12, 2011, ERA announced that it will extend the suspension of processing plant operations until late July 2011 to allow the total process water inventory at the Ranger mine to reduce.
Whilst the water level in the tailings storage facility is below the authorised operating limit, the total process water inventory at Ranger has recently exceeded the level at which operations are able to re-commence.
Traditional Aboriginal land owners pressure ERA to shut down Ranger mine in view of water management problems
Just days before ERA's annual general meeting a scientist, who used to work for the company, says a threat of contaminated water leaking from Ranger into nearby waterways could keep the mine closed for the rest of this year.
At a public forum in Darwin last night the senior traditional owner of the mine site, Mirarr woman Yvonne Margarula, expressed her concerns about poor water management and potential downstream environmental damage if ERA continues mining at Ranger.
Geoff Kyle is an industrial chemist who worked for ERA before being employed by the Mirarr people.
He told the forum organised by the Northern Territory Environment Centre there's no way the company will be able to safely treat the contaminated water stored at Ranger by the time the mining lease expires in 10 years:
"They have facilities to remediate water through chemical water processing, ends up with micro-filtration and osmosis and it is top shelf stuff but it can only do a couple of megalitres a day and they have got 10 gigalitres. We are terrified that this is going to ruin our country."
The traditional owners are repeating calls for Ranger to be shut down permanently in the lead up to ERA's annual general meeting next week. They also oppose the company's plan to use an acid leaching process to increase production and the construction of a new exploratory mine shaft.
(ABC Apr. 8, 2011)
Water level in Ranger tailings dam nears limit
The tailings dam at Ranger uranium mine is almost full after this wet season's very heavy rainfall. The dam level is at 52.16 m and the wet season target level is 52.5 m, says the Federal Environment Department supervising scientist Alan Hughes.
Mr Hughes said the water level is close to maximum, but it can go to the dry season target of 53 m without worry. He expects up to 500 mm of rain for the rest of the Wet. "It does not pose any hazards to go beyond that to the maximum operating level for the dry season of 53 m," Mr Hughes said at Senate estimates.
Ranger managing director Rob Atkinson has said safeguards made it impossible for the dam to overflow into Kakadu National Park.
(NTNews Feb. 28, 2011)
Processing at Ranger uranium mill suspended for 12 weeks due to high water levels in tailings impoundment after heavy rainfall
On 28 January 2011, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) will commence an orderly suspension of plant processing operations as a precautionary measure to help ensure that levels in the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) remain below the authorised operating limit throughout the remainder of the wet season.
The suspension is intended to be for a period of 12 weeks.
The La Niña weather pattern, which has brought extensive flooding to the eastern states of Australia, has also brought significantly higher than average rainfall to Ranger mine since October 2010. Water levels in the TSF are currently higher than our predictions for this time of year.
Further the Bureau of Meteorology has forecast that the region will experience above average rainfall for the remainder of the 2010/11 wet season.
The decision to temporarily suspend plant processing operations will significantly reduce inflows into the TSF and therefore will provide extra capacity to manage unexpected extreme rain events in the coming months.
(ERA Jan. 28, 2011)
Yellowcake truck gets stuck in Kakadu National Park
A semi-trailer loaded with uranium oxide became bogged yesterday on a road in Kakadu National Park.
The yellowcake was being trucked from the Ranger mine, near Jabiru, to East Arm Wharf for shipment.
Energy Resources of Australia denied that there was any danger of the radioactive oxide spilling in the World Heritage-listed nature reserve.
The uranium oxide was sealed in 44-gallon drums inside two shipping containers.
The NQX Freight semi-trailer became bogged about 10am on the side of the Arnhem Highway, 20km west of Jabiru.
It became stuck in water-laden ground after the driver pulled over to let a wide-load truck pass.
(NT News Jan. 6, 2011)
ERA downgrades production target for Ranger mine, again
Energy Resources of Australia has downgraded its annual production guidance for the second time this year.
The company cut its annual production forecast to 3900 tonnes, from previous guidance of 4300-4700 tonnes, meaning it will fall well short of its 5000 tonne supply requirement. At the start of the year, ERA was forecasting about 5240 tonnes of annual production.
The company said the fall in output was caused by disappointing ore grades.
ERA said the shortfall means it will have to cover some supply requirements with purchases, eroding its profits.
(Australian Oct. 13, 2010)
Independent report notes improved regulation of water quality protection downstream from Ranger mine, but some issues remain
"The research found that the application of the ANZECC-ARMCANZ (Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council - Agricultural and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand) guidelines has clearly improved the regulation of water quality protection downstream from the Ranger Uranium Project. The scientific basis is more coherent than the previous regulatory regime;
however, for U (a key parameter of indigenous Mirarr-Gundjeihmi and public concern), higher downstream concentrations are permitted than those observed through natural variability, leaving open the potential for an influence of mine-derived U loads while still being within regulatory limits. Another improvement that could be made to the current regulatory regime, to provide enhanced protection of the water quality in Magela Creek downstream of Ranger, would be to explicitly link the water quality monitoring regime with hydrologic flow conditions."
Water Quality, Water Management and the Ranger Uranium Project: Guidelines, Trends and Issues, by Briony Ferguson, Gavin M. Mudd, in: Water, Air, and Soil Pollution , published online 25 Aug. 2010
Traditional Owners of Ranger uranium mine site alarmed by new spills into Kakadu National Park, call into question mine expansion project
Millions of litres of radioactive water from the Ranger uranium mine have flowed into internationally acclaimed and World Heritage-listed wetlands in Kakadu National Park.
Traditional owners say they will oppose plans for a huge expansion of the 30-year-old mine by Energy Resources of Australia, unless the company upgrades outdated environmental protection procedures.
The Rio Tinto-owned ERA has tried to play down an alarming and unexplained spike in contamination in water flowing from the mine into Kakadu's Magela Creek between April 9 and 11, 2010, The Age can reveal.
About 40 Aborigines live downstream from a site where a measure probe recorded up to five times the warning level of electrical conductivity, which is a measure of contaminants including uranium, sulphate and radium.
Environmental group Environment Centre Northern Territory has been shown evidence showing the spike, which ERA representatives said had originated upstream from the mine and was not ERA's fault.
But, asked about the contamination, ERA admitted the source ''could not be determined and investigations are continuing''. ''It is possible that these have come from the Ranger operations,'' it said.
ERA's handling of the spike and other environmental concerns about the mine have strained its relations with the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Mirarr traditional owners.
In another unreported mishap at the mine, in December 2009 a poorly engineered dam collapsed, spilling 6 million litres of radioactive water into the Gulungul Creek, which flows into Kakadu.
Justin O'Brien, the Gundjeihmi corporation's executive officer, said unless the company changes its environmental procedures, the Mirarr will not support any expansion of the mine - that includes a heap leaching plant, a tunnel under flood-plains, a 1000-person accommodation village, 650 evaporation ponds and a one-square-kilometre tailings dam.
The expansion, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, would extend the mine's operation to at least 2021.
(The Age May 24, 2010)
The head of the Supervising Scientist Division, Alan Hughes, said his own monitoring showed the recently revealed spikes were magnesium sulphate and no other contaminants of note.
(Sydney Morning Herald May 26, 2010)
He said there was a spike in salinity levels because run-off water from a retention pond had spilled into a billabong connected to the creek, but no significant uranium was detected in the water.
"The uranium content of that retention pond is quite low. It's of the order of five micrograms per litre," he said.
(ABC May 27, 2010)
The company that operates the Ranger uranium mine has confirmed higher-than-normal salt levels in a creek in Kakadu National Park is a result of its operations.
Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has investigated two salinity spikes in Magela Creek downstream of the mine in April.
Chief executive Rob Atkinson says run-off water from the mine had flowed into the creek.
(ABC June 12, 2010)
Uranium concentrations in tailings seepage at Ranger uranium mine 5400 times background; rehabilitation impossible
Contaminated water seeping from the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu National Park has a uranium concentration more than 5,000 times the normal level, a Senate estimates committee has heard.
The Office of the Supervising Scientist today told the committee that water seeping from underneath the dam has about 5,400 times the level of uranium than the natural background level.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says the environmental regulator told the committee about 100,000 litres of water seeps from the tailings dam every day.
Mr Ludlam says the water has been leaking from the dam for years.
He says the regulator says it will be impossible to rehabilitate the site.
"The uranium concentation in the billabong surrounding the mine are about three to five parts per billion," he said.
"But the uranium in the processed water that is leaking from beneath the tailings dam is 27,000 parts per billion.
So it's roughly 5,500 times as much uramium in that water as there is the surrounding environment and that means the company has got a huge problem."
(ABC Feb. 9, 2010)
The reported uranium concentration in the seepage (equiv. to 27 mg/l) is slighthly higher than that to be used for a uranium byproduct recovery project in the Talvivaara Sotkamo nickel/zinc mine in Finland - conincidentally announced the same day. Maybe, ERA should contract this company to deal with this seepage...
> Download Transcript of Environment, Communications, and the Arts Committee, Feb. 9, 2010 (PDF)
Preliminary results of probe into tailings leak at Ranger uranium mine not made public
The Commonwealth supervising scientist of the Ranger uranium mine at Kakadu National Park says investigations are continuing into water contamination at the site.
Alan Hughes has told a Senate estimates committee that Energy Resources of Australia has conducted geophysical surveys to determine the impact and extent of leaking from a tailings dam at the mine.
Mr Hughes says the company has only preliminary results from the surveys and is not sure if ERA will make the findings public.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam is demanding the report be made public as soon as possible.
(ABC Oct. 20, 2009)
> Download Transcript of Environment, Communications, and the Arts Committee, Oct. 20, 2009 (1.1M PDF)
Pit wall instability causes interruptions to operations at Ranger mine
In the September 2009 quarter, "total material mined was 4 percent lower than the June 2009 quarter due to some intermittent interruptions to operations to allow increased surveillance of a known and localised area of instability on the southern wall of the pit."
(ERA September 2009 Quarter Operations Review, Oct. 14, 2009)
Traditional Owners oppose extension of Ranger mine operation beyond 2021
The relationship between mining company ERA and traditional owners of the Ranger uranium mine site has showed signs of serious deterioration.
Senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula says the company was lying about the timetable for the planned expansion at Ranger.
She fears any new works will mean that mining will continue beyond the scheduled completion date.
ERA is scheduled to finish mining at the Ranger site by 2021 and after rehabilitation to leave the site by 2026.
But after its annual general meeting on Wednesday, company chief executive Rob Atkinson left open the possibility that the timetable might extend.
(ABC Apr. 24, 2009)
ERA keen to keep Ranger uranium mine open beyond 2021
Energy Resources of Australia has told shareholders it would be delighted to extend the life of the Ranger Uranium Mine in Kakadu National Park.
Under current legislation, work at the mine has to stop in 2021.
The company's chief executive, Rob Atkinson, says there is no plan to extend it at this stage, but that could change if further resources are found.
"I think we've got an exciting exploration program in the future and really depending on that feasibility, that if there's efficient ore and that we can work with the key stakeholders, then I think that it would be a desirable option."
(ABC Apr. 22, 2009)
ERA withdraws proposal for Ranger 3 Deeps project
On Sep. 7, 2021, the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment issued a notification that the proposal for the Ranger 3 Deeps project has been withdrawn.
ERA remediates Ranger 3 Deeps decline
Due to the ongoing constrained market conditions the project remains uneconomic. Consequently, ERA will progress remediation of the Ranger 3 Deeps decline.
(ERA Feb. 15, 2021)
ERA abandons development of Ranger 3 Deeps deposit
On Jan. 8, 2021, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) announced that, due to current market conditions and the imminent decommissioning of the Ranger mill, development of the Ranger 3 Deeps deposit remains uneconomic. ERA therefore expects to close the Ranger 3 Deeps decline.
ERA keeps option for developing Ranger 3 Deeps alive
Following a strategic review, ERA said on Wednesday (May 4) it would spend about A$4 million (US$ 3 million) a year keeping alive the option of developing Ranger 3 Deeps, which would require an extension of its processing license that expires in January 2021.
(Reuters May 4, 2016)
Traditional owners reject extension of Ranger uranium mining lease
The slow demise of uranium producer Energy Resources of Australia has reached an important stage as the company receives confirmation that the local Indigenous people will not support an extension to ERA's mining lease.
ERA's uranium mines are on the traditional lands of the Mirarr people within Kakadu National Park.
ERA previously decided that an underground expansion of its Ranger mine would require more time than the 2021 deadline stated on the company's mining lease.
The Mirarr's insistence that mining stop and rehabilitation start in 2021 is a significant blow to the company, which, in recent years, has tended to avoid mining in places the Mirarr want preserved.
(Sydney Morning Herald Oct. 15, 2015)
In a reaction, ERA announced that "ERA respects the views of the Traditional Owners and will undertake a review of its business in light of their decision." (ERA Oct. 15, 2015)
ERA expects A$ 200 million write down after halt of Ranger Expansion Project
On July 22, 2015, ERA announced that, following the announcement on 11 June 2015 that the Ranger 3 Deeps project will not proceed to Final Feasibility Study in the current operating environment, ERA expects that the deferred tax assets will be written down by an amount of between $190 million and $200 million in the company's 2015 half year results.
Traditional Owners challenge federal government to guarantee that no future mining will occur at Ranger and Jabiluka
The traditional owners of the land on which the Ranger uranium mine is built have challenged the federal government to guarantee that no future mining will occur on the Ranger and Jabiluka mineral leases, and to begin preparations for the sites' inclusion in Kakadu National Park.
In rare comments that do not bode well for the operator of the mine, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), the Mirarr traditional owners indicated they would not agree to an expansion of the Ranger mine in the future, despite ERA seeking to keep that option open.
More than a month after ERA's major shareholder, Rio Tinto, declared it did not support the Ranger expansion project, the uranium miner continued to push that barrow, and confirmed on Friday (July 10) it had asked the federal and Northern Territory governments for an extension of its lease beyond 2021 so that it might reconsider the mine expansion if commodity prices improved.
(Sydney Morning Herald July 12, 2015)
Rio Tinto completely withdraws support for any expansion of ERA's Ranger uranium mine
Mining giant Rio Tinto has pulled its support for any expansion of Kakadu's Ranger uranium mine, at odds with the project operator's decision to pause work.
"Rio Tinto has determined that it does not support any further study or the future development of Ranger 3 Deeps due to the project's economic challenges," it said on Friday (June 12).
In response, ERA said it remains committed to revisiting the proposed expansion at some point, and will speak with Rio Tinto "to understand the implications of their position for this approach".
Meanwhile, Rio said the decision not to proceed with the Ranger expansion may result in a non-cash impairment charge of about $US300 million on its stake in ERA.
(news.com.au June 12, 2015)
Ranger uranium mine expansion project put on hold
Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) will not proceed with its proposed 3 Deeps expansion project at the present time, the company has announced to the stock exchange.
In a statement, the company said the uranium market has not improved like ERA had previously expected and there is uncertainty as to what prices would do in the future.
The company also said the mine only had the authority to operate until 2021, and the economics of the project required certainty beyond that point.
Those conditions meant ERA would not proceed to a final feasibility study at this time, the statement said.
ERA will continue to "process stockpiles and meet obligations to its customers", the statement said.
(ABC June 11, 2015)
Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) confirms it would like to mine at Ranger beyond its current permit expiry in 2021, provoking disapproval from Traditional Owners
In its first public contemplation of working the Ranger lease beyond that time, ERA said it may seek an extension to the lease if uranium markets remain weak between now and 2021.
Earlier this month, ERA deferred an investment decision on an expansion project at Ranger, which is the only hope of future mining at the site.
ERA, 68 per cent owned by Rio Tinto, has thus far evaluated the expansion on the basis that all mining must finish in 2021, but the company confirmed it was now contemplating life beyond that.
"If the Ranger 3 Deeps Resource is not economically viable within the current Ranger section 41 authority, an extension may be sought," the company said in its annual report.
Representatives of the traditional owners of the land upon which Ranger is located, the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, said the law requires mining to cease by 2021 and for rehabilitation to be complete by 2026.
(Sydney Morning Herald Feb. 16, 2015)
> Download Energy Resources of Australia (ERA): Annual Report 2014 (5.6MB PDF)
ERA delays development of Ranger 3 Deeps expansion project to 2016
Energy Resources Australia (ERA) has quietly delayed the expansion of the Ranger uranium mine, with work now set to commence at an unspecified date in 2016, rather than its original target date of late 2015.
The company, 68 per cent owned by mining giant Rio Tinto, made the announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange late on Friday (Feb. 6).
"Dependent on the outcome of further work, and subject to board and regulatory approvals, first development ore for Ranger 3 Deeps is now expected to be in 2016," the report said.
It also said that ERA was likely to require further investment for the expansion to go ahead.
(NT News Feb. 11, 2015)
Groups slam Ranger 3 Deeps Underground Mine proposal
Uncertain, unsafe and unwelcome: Kakadu underground uranium plan fails the nuclear test
Energy Resources of Australia's plan for a new underground mine at Ranger in Kakadu should not be allowed to proceed because ERA has failed to present key data in its environmental impact statement and the company lacks the capacity to fulfil its rehabilitation obligations at the site, environment groups said today.
As the uranium industry meets in Darwin for a Minerals Council promotion, national and NT environment groups have released a new examination of the economics and assumptions behind ERA's proposal to construct the so called Ranger 3 Deeps project.
(ACF Dec. 5, 2014)
> View ACF release Dec. 5, 2014
> Download Environment Centre NT / ACF Background Brief , Dec. 2014 (543k PDF)
Environment groups call for full disclosure of ERA's plan for Ranger mine
Northern Territory and national environment groups have pledged to fight a proposal for a new underground uranium mine within the boundaries of Kakadu National Park, arguing the proponent Energy Resources of Australia has failed to supply key details that would allow NT and federal environment ministers to make an informed assessment of the project's economic risks.
Energy Resources of Australia, majority owned by Rio Tinto, has submitted a Draft Environment Impact Assessment prior to finalising and releasing a pre-feasibility study that contains important project details, including economic data directly relevant to the company's unproven capacity to rehabilitate the troubled mine site.
(Australian Conservation Foundation Nov. 5, 2014)
Draft EIS for Ranger 3 Deeps Underground Mine available for comment
On October 3, 2014, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has lodged with the Northern Territory Environmental Protection Authority and the Commonwealth Department of the Environment, a
Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Ranger 3 Deeps underground mine.
Submit comments by 12 December 2014.
> Download Ranger 3 Deeps Underground Mine Draft Environmental Impact Statement: ERA (main text only) · NT EPA (including appendices)
Draft EIS guidelines for Ranger 3 Deeps Underground Mine available for comment
The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) guidelines for the proposed Ranger 3 Deeps Underground Mine in the Northern Territory (EPBC 2013/6722) are available for public comment from Saturday 6 July until Friday 19 July 2013.
> Download related documents: Referral for proposed action: Ranger 3 Deeps Underground Mine, Ref. No. 2013/6722
Groups urge Rio Tinto to end support for uranium at Ranger
Environment groups have called on Rio Tinto not to proceed to a Final Investment Decision for a proposed underground operation at the troubled Ranger uranium mine.
National and Northern Territory environment groups oppose the Ranger 3 Deeps plan because it would increase pressure on the surrounding environment and add considerable delay, cost and complexity to the final closure and rehabilitation of the site. Mining and processing is mandated to cease at Ranger in 2021, with full rehabilitation and exit complete by 2026.
(Australian Conservation Foundation May 9, 2013)
Protest at ERA AGM against Ranger mine expansion
Ten protesters in fancy outfits posed their opposition to uranium mining outside the Energy Resources of Australia AGM in Darwin, with their bodies.
Environment Centre NT nuclear-free campaigner Cat Beaton said the group was against ERA's plans to mine underground at Ranger Mine, 260km east of Darwin, which is surrounded by Kakadu National Park.
"We believe the Ranger lease should go like Koongarra and be incorporated into Kakadu National Park," Ms Beaton said.
(NT News Apr. 11, 2013)
ERA lodges referral on proposed Ranger 3 Deeps underground mine at Ranger
On January 16, 2013, ERA lodged a referral on the proposed Ranger 3 Deeps underground mine at Ranger.
On March, 13, 2013, the Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) announced that the proposed Ranger 3 Deeps underground mine is a controlled action and will require assessment under the EPBC Act. The proposed action will be assessed by an environmental impact statement.
> Download related documents: Referral for proposed action: Ranger 3 Deeps Underground Mine, Ref. No. 2013/6722
ERA Board approves Ranger 3 Deeps mine prefeasibility study
On June 14, 2012, the Board of Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) approved the expenditure of $57 million to conduct a prefeasibility study on the potential Ranger 3 Deeps mine. The study will be conducted from 2012 until 2014 inclusive.
(ERA June 14, 2012)
Construction of Ranger 3 Deeps exploration decline begins
Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has started construction works at its Ranger 3 Deeps decline at the Ranger mine, in the Northern Territory.
A 2.2 km decline would be constructed to a depth of around 400 m, the company said on Tuesday (May 1).
Era would invest some A$120-million in the Ranger 3 Deeps exploration decline project to conduct close-spaced underground exploration drilling to further define the Ranger 3 Deeps orebody, and to explore areas adjacent to the resource.
(Mining Weekly May 1, 2012)
ERA is negotiating new uranium mining agreement with traditional owners at Ranger mine
ERA chief executive Rob Atkinson said the new uranium discovery at Ranger 3 Deeps, next to the existing Ranger pit, was one of the biggest recent finds in the world.
But Mr Atkinson said the resource would not be mined unless traditional owners supported the project.
"We are in negotiations for a new mining agreement with the Mirarr," he said.
While talks have been on for years, Mr Atkinson said they had picked up speed.
"We're hopeful for it to be concluded in the next few months," he said.
(NT News Jan. 4, 2012)
A long-awaited mining agreement with the Mirarr people, the traditional owners of Ranger, to mine the Ranger 3 Deeps underground mine was "close to finalisation", ERA said.
(The Australian Nov. 27, 2012)
> See also: Ranger mining agreement to address historical issues
Northern Territory government approves construction of Ranger 3 Deeps exploration decline
On Aug. 25, 2011, ERA announced that it received notification from the Northern Territory Government that it has approved the construction of the Ranger 3 Deeps exploration decline. This approval follows notification from the Northern Territory and Commonwealth Governments in 2009 that construction of the Ranger 3 Deeps exploration decline did not require formal environmental assessment under the Northern Territory Environmental Assessment Act and the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Work to prepare the site is underway with construction of the box cut scheduled to commence in May 2012.
The exploration decline will allow ERA to conduct close spaced underground exploration drilling and explore areas adjacent to the Ranger 3 Deeps resource. The current Ranger 3 Deeps mineral resource contains an estimated 34,000 tonnes of uranium oxide [28,832 t U] with a grade of 0.34% uranium oxide [0.29% U].
Rio Tinto urged to curb Ranger uranium mine expansion
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has urged Rio Tinto to stop a planned expansion of the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory.
Rio Tinto subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) runs the uranium mine on a lease inside Kakadu National Park.
Production is currently suspended following a record wet season in the Territory and Rio Tinto is holding its annual general meeting in Perth today.
ACF spokesman Dave Sweeney says it should use the opportunity to scale back plans for the mine.
"Ranger is a leaking, ageing and under-performing mine," he said.
(ABC May 5, 2011)
Australian Conservation Foundation report finds serious risks with Ranger mine expansion project
Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has under-estimated the size, complexity, cost and impact of a proposed expansion of operations at its troubled Ranger mine in Kakadu, according to an 'Acid Test' report released by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) on Apr. 12, 2011.
The report, which examines the company's planned use of the controversial acid heap leach processing technique in the high rainfall Kakadu region, has found that the plan poses serious risks to the environment and local Indigenous culture of the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park.
The expansion would also complicate ERA's planned closure and exit timeline for Ranger mine, and further increase pressure for an extension to the Ranger lease.
Mining and milling operations currently remain suspended at Ranger due to water management deficiencies and related flooding and contamination threats.
"ERA's demonstrated inability to appropriately manage existing operations at Ranger casts serious doubts over its capacity to manage any further expansion," said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney.
> View ACF release Apr. 12, 2011
> Download Acid Test: The impacts of Energy Resources of Australia's proposed Acid Heap Leach facility and related expansion plans at the Ranger Uranium Mine in Kakadu , ACF Briefing Paper, April 2011 (1.2M PDF)
Traditional Owners of Ranger uranium mine site oppose mine expansion project
Mirarr are clear in their continued opposition to the proposed expansions of the Ranger mine (i.e. Ranger 3 Deeps open pit mine and Heap Leaching, which has never been tested in a tropical environment such as Kakadu).
"We will continue to resist more mining on Mirarr country. We have no choice - this is our land and our life, we can never leave, we must protect it." Yvonne Margarula.
(Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation Aug. 24, 2010)
> Download Mirarr materials (FOE Australia)
Traditional Owners of Ranger uranium mine site alarmed by new spills into Kakadu National Park, call into question mine expansion project
> View here
ACF slams approval of exploration decline at Ranger 3 Deeps
The operators of the Ranger Uranium Mine in Kakadu have been accused of trying to expand the mine by stealth after Environment Minister Peter Garrett approved a three-kilometre exploration tunnel.
The decision to approve the tunnel with no environmental conditions has angered environmentalists, who say it is the first step towards expanding the 30-year old mine, situated in the world heritage-protected Kakadu National Park.
The decision was quietly released on Sunday (May 17, 2009).
The tunnel will reach a depth of up to 350 metres underground and travel outside the existing environmental impact zone of the mine and under the important Magela Creek, which brings water to Kakadu's wetlands.
Nuclear campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation Dave Sweeney says details found in mine operator Energy Resources of Australia's proposal for the tunnel showed it was expansive enough to be later used or modified for commercial mining. The proposal has provision for the tunnel to follow any seams of uranium surveyors come across.
(The Age May 20, 2009)
ERA files application for exploration decline at Ranger 3 Deeps
On 16 July 2009, ERA received notification from the NT that its proposal to construct an underground exploration decline (tunnel) at its Ranger operations was unlikely to result in significant enviornmental impacts and does not warrent formal assessment under the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA). ERA had earlier received a determination from the Commonwealth that the proposed exploration decline was not a controlled action under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
On April 15, 2009, ERA announced that it had formally applied for statutory approval of an underground exploration decline at its Ranger operations.
ERA has lodged a referral of the exploration decline project with the Commonwealth Department of Environment, Water, Heritage & the Arts ("DEWHA") under the Commonwealth Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. ERA has separately lodged an application for approval of the project with the Northern Territory Government.
> Download Referral Ref. No. 2009/4860 (DEWHA)
> View project details (ERA)
ERA files application for approval of heap leach project at Ranger mine
The Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport (NRETA) invites public comment on the Draft Guidelines for the Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd Ranger Uranium Mine - Heap Leach Facility.
Closing date is 31 August 2009.
> Download Draft EIS guidelines
On April 15, 2009, and later on May 19, 2009, the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Water Heritage and the Arts and the Northern Territory Minister for Natural Resources, Environmental and Heritage had, respectively, determined that ERA's project to construct a heap leach facility and associated infrastructure, under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and the Northern Territory Mining Management Act and Environemtnal Assessment Act was a controlled action under the EPBC Act and the Northern Territory EEA and will require formal environmental assessment under at the level of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
On 16 March, 2009, ERA announced that it has formally applied for statutory approval of a heap leach facility at its Ranger operations.
ERA has lodged a referral with the Commonwealth Department of Environment, Water, Heritage & the Arts ("DEWHA") under the Commonwealth Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. ERA has separately lodged an application for approval with the Northern Territory Government.
If approved, the heap leach facility is expected to treat 10 million tonnes of low grade mineralised material per year, contained in stockpiles and the operating Ranger pit, to produce a total of between 15 to 20,000 tonnes of uranium oxide. ERA's pre-feasibility study into the heap leach facility is expected to be completed within the first half of 2009.
> Download Referral Ref. No. 2009/4794 (DEWHA)
> View ERA New Projects Heap Leach Referral
ERA expects massive uranium resource at extension of Ranger deposit
On Nov. 17, 2008, ERA announced that it expects to find 30,000 to 40,000 t U3O8 in the Ranger 3 Deeps area east to the current Ranger 3 operating pit. ERA has performed extensive exploration in the area over the last two years.
ERA to extend mine life of Ranger open pit mine to 2012
On Sep. 27, 2007, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd announced that it has approved an extension of the Ranger operating pit. The extension of the operating pit follows a detailed feasibility study which was announced in February 2007. The pit pushback, will extend mining at Ranger until 2012, and combined with optimisation of the existing pit, will add an additional 4,857 tonnes (10.7 million lbs) of contained uranium oxide [4,119 t U]. The majority of the additional production from the extension will occur in 2011. Processing at Ranger is due to cease in 2020.
ERA has also approved expenditure of A$10 million for a pre-feasibility study to examine options to extend the mine further and increase production from the processing plant. The study will commence immediately and continue in 2008.
Ranger tailings dam leaks 100 cubic metres per day
The Ranger uranium mine inside the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is leaking 100,000 litres of contaminated water into the ground beneath the park every day, a Government appointed scientist has revealed.
Alan Hughes, the Commonwealth supervising scientist appointed to monitor the mine's environmental impact, confirmed at a Senate committee hearing that about 100 cubic metres a day — the equivalent of 100,000 litres or three petrol tankers — of contaminant were leaking from the mine's tailings dam into rock fissures beneath Kakadu.
Environmentalists and the Greens say the company should be forced to halt plans to expand the mine until it explains how it intends to recover the water and meet its obligations to rehabilitate the world heritage-listed area, 250 kilometres south-east of Darwin.
(The Age March 13, 2009)
Workers 'caked' in uranium at Ranger mill
More than a dozen workers were exposed to a "concerning" level of uranium during a clean-up operation at the Ranger mine near Jabiru.
The workers were not wearing their TLD monitoring devices at the time but urine tests showed they had been exposed to uranium oxide.
The incident is among 210 outstanding matters before the mine's safety committee, Australian Manufacturing Union (AMWU) state secretary Andrew Dettmer said.
Energy Resources of Australia business development manager David Paterson said the workers probably ingested uranium through their mouths after licking their lips while cleaning out the yellowcake.
The incident took place over three days in late October when workers were cleaning yellowcake out of a "hopper" where it was clogged after a rainstorm. Mr Paterson said they were wearing only paper overalls and face masks.
AMWU NT organiser Steve Milne said eight workers who were tested "were all over the acceptable limit for uranium".
(Northern Territory News Nov. 21, 2008)
ERA signs China uranium export deal
Energy Resources of Australia, which is 68.4 per cent-owned by Rio Tinto, says it has signed an agreement to supply uranium to a Chinese electric utility.
ERA, the producer of a tenth of the world's uranium, operates the Ranger mine 250 kilometres east of Darwin in the Northern Territory.
Rio Tinto chief executive of energy Preston Chiaro said ERA had "reached in principle an agreement for a contract to supply uranium oxide to an electric utility in China".
Mr Chiaro said that the agreement was reached after the signing of a bilateral safety agreement between the Chinese and Australia governments.
Rio Tinto said the supply agreement with the utility starts in the second half of 2008.
(The Australian July 25, 2008)
The first uranium shipment to China will be sent in the next few weeks.
(Northern Territory News Oct. 29, 2008)
High water level in Ranger pit affects uranium production
On Apr. 15, 2008, ERA announced that, currently, there is restricted access to higher grade ore, which is located predominantly in the bottom of the pit. This access should be re-established towards the end of the second quarter, with the mill currently processing stockpiled ore. As a result, average head grade in the second quarter is expected to be in the range of 0.20 to 0.25 per cent uranium oxide and processing of this lower grade will reduce drummed production in the second quarter.
On July 15, 2008, ERA reported that "uranium oxide production of 1,030 tonnes was 22 per cent lower than the first quarter of 2008, and 31 per cent lower than the corresponding quarter in 2007. This was due to restricted access to higher grade ore". "At the end of the wet season, although water levels in the pit were substantially lower than at the same time in 2007, there was still restricted access to higher grade ore, which is located predominantly in the bottom of the pit."
ERA halts mining at Ranger ahead of cyclone
Uranium producer Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) has ceased mining at its Ranger mine in the Northern Territory as the operation braces for Tropical Cyclone Helen. The milling operation continues on stockpiled ore.
(The Sydney Morning Herald Jan. 4, 2008)
Mining resumed on Jan. 7, 2008. (The Australian Jan. 7, 2008)
Heavy rainfall stops uranium mining at Ranger
Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) has stopped mining at its Ranger mine in the Northern Territory following heavy monsoonal rain.
ERA said mining stopped on Feb. 27, 2007, and the processing plant closed on Feb. 28, 2007, after several days of heavy rain.
(The Age March 1, 2007)
Mining operations restarted at Ranger on Mar. 7, 2007. The processing plant is expected to restart within the next week. (ERA Mar. 7, 2007)
The shutdown and re-start of the processing plant resulted in the loss of approximately 300 tonnes of uranium oxide production. In addition, the elevated water level in the mine resulting from the high rainfall will restrict access to ore in the second half of 2007 and into 2008. This will have an impact on production in the second half of 2007.
Based on currently available water treatment and disposal capacity, production in 2007 is likely to be similar to 2006, while production in 2008 is likely to be 25 per cent to 35 per cent lower than 2006.
(ERA Apr. 2, 2007)
Uranium production in the first quarter of 2007 (1006 t U3O8) was 28% lower than in the first quarter of 2006. (ERA Apr. 16, 2007)
It is now expected that Pit 3 will be emptied of water by November 2007. This will allow mining of ore at the bottom of the pit and, subject to experiencing a normal wet season, should allow production in 2008 to be restored to normal levels. (ERA Sep. 27, 2007)
ERA to construct processing plant for stockpiled lateritic ore at Ranger mine
Energy Resources of Australia Ltd will spend $27.6 million in 2007 to construct a plant at the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory to process lateritic ore, a material containing a high proportion of clay minerals.
The laterite processing plant will contribute approximately 400 tonnes per annum of uranium oxide to ERA's production over seven years from 2008 through to 2014. This production is already included in ERA's current processing plan, and the lateritic ore forms part of current stated reserves.
Approximately 1.6 million tonnes of lateritic ore have been stockpiled since the mine began operating to allow for the optimum processing method to be developed. Because of the claylike nature of this material, it has to be introduced into the main processing plant through a dedicated handling facility.
Construction of the plant will commence in April 2007 with the first lateritic ore scheduled for processing in the first quarter of 2008.
(ERA Nov. 29, 2006)
Study finds almost doubled cancer rate among Aborigines near Ranger mine
Cancer cases among Aborigines near the Ranger uranium mine appear to be almost double the normal rate, according to a study by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), the Federal Government's leading indigenous research body.
The study also found there had been no monitoring in the past 20 years of the Ranger mine's impact on the health of local indigenous people. Yet since 1981 there have been more than 120 spillages and leaks of contaminated water at the mine, located in the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.
The study compared Aborigines diagnosed with cancer in the Kakadu region with the cancer rate among all Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory from 1994 to 2003.
It found the diagnosis rate was 90 per cent higher than expected in the Kakadu region, with 27 cases reported. If the diagnosis rate had been proportional to the territory's overall Aboriginal population, there would have been 14 cases.
A spokeswoman for federal Health Minister Tony Abbott said the study's findings on cancer rates were questionable.
NT health department chief executive Robert Griew was also sceptical. "The excess cancers found are not typical of cancers caused by radiation but rather cover the range of cancers that reflect lifestyle issues such as smoking, diet and infection."
(The Age Nov. 23, 2006)
On Nov. 23, 2006, the AIATSIS chairman stated that the "draft discussion paper entitled Aborigines and Uranium Mining in the Northern Territory authored by Professor Colin Tatz et al [...] was neither commissioned nor authorized by the Institute's Governing Council and [...] does not represent a finalized report."
ERA plans to mill more stockpiled low-grade ore, extending operational life of Ranger mill by six years
Since mining operations began at Ranger, material with a grade greater than 0.02% U3O8 and below the economic cut-off grade of 0.08% U3O8 has been stockpiled separately. Recent increases in the market price of uranium oxide have warranted a review of these stockpiles. Technical studies have established that smaller sized mineralised fragments are of higher grade than the larger fragments. Through a screening process, it is projected that 15 million tonnes of material containing 11,100 tonnes uranium oxide at an average grade of 0.074% U3O8 can be economically processed.
ERA has previously stated that mining at Ranger was expected to continue until at least 2008, with milling operations continuing until at least 2014. The processing of this screened material is now expected to occur from late in 2014 to 2020, adding six years to the predicted operational life of Ranger.
Mining of the present estimated reserves at Ranger is still expected to cease in 2008.
(ERA Oct. 25, 2006)
The Environment Centre of the NT (ECNT) said the extension posed a real and significant threat to world heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. "Any extension will exacerbate existing tailings and water management problems. Tailings from approved mining and milling plans are already enough to fill the pits, and ERA has already had to apply for new land application areas to manage contaminated water," said ECNT uranium campaigner Emma King. (AAP Oct. 26, 2006)
Serious production setback at Ranger mine
"Mill head grade was 30 per cent lower than the corresponding quarter in 2005 although it was 5 per cent higher than that processed in Q2. This was due to the elevated water level in the pit resulting from the unusually high rainfall throughout the wet season. As previously advised, the elevated water level prevented access to high grade ore earlier in the quarter but the water has been successfully drawn down and mining is now focused in areas of higher grade ore.
The lower mill head grade resulted in drummed production that was 31 per cent lower than the corresponding quarter in 2005 but 85 per cent higher than second quarter production. As a result of the operational difficulties experienced in the first half of the year and the impacts of the high water level, production for 2006 is forecast to be significantly lower than in 2005."
(ERA, Third Quarter Operations Review, Oct. 18, 2006)
"Drummed production for the quarter was 596 tonnes uranium oxide [505 t U] (2005: 1,250 tonnes uranium oxide [1060 t U]). This was lower than the corresponding period last year due to wet weather associated with cyclone Monica and unusually high rainfall throughout the wet season that prevented access to high grade ore. Production was further impacted by a reduction in the volume of ore treated due to difficulties experienced in bringing the acid plant back to full production after a planned maintenance shutdown."
(ERA Quarterly Production and Exploration Report to 30 June 2006, July 19, 2006)
Ranger uranium mine shut down for cyclone warning
Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has shut down its operations in the Northern Territory ahead of the arrival of Cyclone Monica.
(The Age April 24, 2006)
Discount sell-off of 25% stake in ERA raises concern re unsufficient Ranger mine decommissioning trust fund
On Dec. 6, 2005, Cameco, Cogéma, and Japan Australia Uranium Resources Development Co Ltd. (JAURD) sold their combined 25% stake in Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) at a steep 27.6% discount - at just A$9.50 a share. That compares with ERA's closing price ahead of a trading halt on Dec. 6, 2005, at A$13.13. (Australian Dec. 7, 2005)
It appears that the former shareholders have no confidence in a development of the Jabiluka deposit in the foreseeable future and, in view of the Ranger deposit soon to be depleted, are leaving a sinking ship. This raises concern regarding the unsufficient financial guarantees covering the decommissioning cost of the Ranger mine (see below).
ERA fined over Ranger mine safety breach
ERA was fined A$82,500 in the Darwin Magistrate’s Court on Oct. 28, 2005, after having pleaded guilty to a charge brought by the Northern Territory’s Department of Primary Industry, Fisheries and Mines under the Mining Management Act. The maximum fine for the charge was A$275,000 and the minimum was A$27,500.
The charge relates to an incident in July 2004 when a fitter was injured in the Ranger mine processing plant.
(ERA Oct. 28, 2005)
Ranger uranium mill life to be extended by three years
The Ranger uranium mine operators say the rising price of uranium will allow them to keep processing lower grade ore for another three years.
The Ranger mine in the Northern Territory is due to close in 2008 and the processing facility was meant to shut down in 2011.
Changes in the world uranium price have led ERA to reduce the grade of ore they will process.
In the past, the economic cut-off grade for uranium oxide was 0.12 per cent, but ERA says ore with a grade of just 0.08 per cent is now worth processing.
That has increased reserves at the mine by more than 6,000 tonnes, or just over 10 per cent.
ERA managing director Harry Kenyon-Slaney says that will keep the processing plant open until 2014, and up to 200 Jabiru residents in a job.
(ABC 27 Oct. 2005)
ERA, the operator of the Northern Territory's Ranger uranium mine says it could cost A$176 million to close the mine down.
The Ranger uranium mine, surrounded by Kakadu National Park, is expected to cease operations in 2008, with processing to continue until 2011.
ERA has informed the stock exchange it has developed a mine closure model which provides estimates of the technical, environmental and social costs.
"Currently ERA has $41.4 million in a government-administered trust fund for this purpose, with a further $23.6 million available through a bank guarantee," the company said.
(ABC, The Australian, July 22, 2005; see also ERA Half Year Results 2005, July 22, 2005)
ERA fined A$150,000 for Ranger breaches
On June 1, 2005, ERA was fined A$150,000 in the Darwin Magistrate’s Court after having pleaded guilty on 6 May 2005 to charges brought by the Northern Territory Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development under the Mining Management Act.
Two charges related to the incident concerning the connection of the drinking and process water systems at the Ranger uranium processing plant in March 2004 (one of which was dismissed), and one charge related to mobile equipment radiation clearance incidents between November 2003 and March 2004.
(ERA, ABC, Australian, June 1, 2005)
ERA may lengthen Ranger mine's life
Energy Resources of Australia is considering further exploration that might extend the life of its Ranger operation in the Northern Territory.
Last month, the Rio Tinto subsidiary announced it had increased its reserves by 5972 tonnes of contained uranium.
ERA said mining at Ranger, which is in Kakadu national park, was expected to continue until at least 2008 with milling operations continuing until at least 2011.
The company said the increase in reserves was not expected to result in an extension to mining operations, but might extend milling operations by up to a year. In addition, ERA has revised its mining plan to include the edges of pit No 3, and this would provide the basis for an extension to milling.
It is understood the company is also considering appraisal drilling of known uranium outcrops nearby that could be processed through the Ranger plant.
(Australian Feb. 18, 2005)
Supervising Scientist: Ranger mine safety improvements must be made law
A Commonwealth-appointed scientist has urged the Federal Government to legislate to ensure Energy Resources Australia fixes problems at the Ranger uranium mine.
The scientist, Arthur Johnston, says in his annual report, released on Nov. 9, 2004, that ERA has become "complacent" about radiation dangers at the mine and has not provided enough protection for workers.
He criticises ERA for playing down radiation exposure before properly assessing leaks at the mine.
While ERA has made commitments to tackle problems, Dr Johnston believes "measures to address these issues should be made requirements of the company under legislation".
(Sydney Morning Herald Nov. 10, 2004)
> Download Supervising Scientist Annual Report 2003 - 2004
After taking uranium showers earlier this year, Ranger mill workers now get dried in airstream containing yellow cake...
A spokeswoman for Energy Resources Australia Limited last night said material that "appeared to be yellow cake" had leaked from a compressed air tool in the packing plant where uranium oxide is put in drums for export.
Northern Territory Government regulators will investigate how yellow cake
came to be in the compressed air system in an area of the mine that is
supposed to be highly regulated.
The spokeswoman said a worker in the immediate area, wearing protective
clothing, was not exposed to radiation.
(The Age Oct. 30, 2004)
Northern Territory launches legal action against Ranger
The Northern Territory Mining Department is proceeding with legal action against the operators of the Ranger Uranium Mine over a contamination incident earlier this year.
A formal complaint has been lodged with the Darwin Magistrates Court.
It alleges two separate breaches of the Mining Management Act by Energy Resources of Australia (ERA). (ABC Sep. 29, 2004)
Ranger mine operations suspended after Investigation Reports criticize the mine's radiation clearance measures and water systems as inadequate
On Aug. 30, 2004, the Supervising Scientist Investigation Report on the drinking water incident that occured on March 24, 2004, at the Ranger uranium mine was released. A further report examined an incident in February 2004 where two bobcat earthmovers had been returned in a mildly contaminated condition to Jabiru.
The two reports found the mine's radiation clearance measures and water systems were inadequate. Supervising Scientist Arthur Johnson found leaking pipes and broken and corroded valves were common around the mill.
In response, ERA said it would temporarily suspend mining and processing from Aug. 31, 2004, for several days to address the issues raised by the reports.
(AAP Aug. 30, 2004)
Mine operation was resumed on Sep. 3, 2004. (ABC Sep. 3, 2004)
> Download: Investigation of the potable water contamination incident at Ranger mine March 2004, Supervising Scientist Report 184, 2004 (Department of the Environment and Heritage)
> Download: Investigation of radiation clearance procedures for vehicles leaving the Ranger mine, Supervising Scientist Report 185, 2004 (Department of the Environment and Heritage)
Ranger mine shut down after workers drank contaminated water and took uranium showers
The Ranger mine was shut down on March 24, 2004, following a uranium scare affecting 20 staff. The scare occurred after workers coming off the night shift complained the water in the showers was making them itchy. The water was found to contain levels of uranium up to 8 mg/ltr (400 times safe drinking levels).
(The Australian Mar. 25, 2004)
The contamination occured when a flexible hose was connected between the process water system and the drinking water system. The hose was supposed to increase supply to the process water, but it had the opposite effect. The offending hose has been removed. (The Australian Mar. 26, 2004)
The mine restarted on 31 March 2004, but the mill did not resume operation yet (ABC Apr 1, 2004).
Some workers even drank 3-4 liters of the contaminated water after mine managers failed to warn them. (The Age Apr 5, 2004)
On April 6, 2004, full operations at the mine and mill have resumed upon receipt of NT Government approval. (ABC Apr 6, 2004)
Energy Resources of Australia should be prosecuted after drinking water at its controversial Ranger Mine became contaminated with uranium, a NT government report has found. Mines and Energy Minister Kon Vatskalis said a report found the Rio Tinto company had breached NT legislation, and recommended prosecution. The report has not been made public. (The Age May 19, 2004)
Government Report Clears Ranger Uranium Mine Operations
The Federal Environment Minister, David Kemp, says the Ranger uranium mine has been cleared of allegations it breeched environmental regulations five years ago.
However, the report does make two technical recommendations for possible improvements in the mine's chemical monitoring program and the assessment of discharges of water from the region south of its tailings dam.
In April 2002, former Energy Resources Australia employee Geoffrey Kyle raised claims that during his five years at Ranger tailings spills were under-reported and water quality tests had been misreported.
(ABC 26 Sep 2002)
> View Federal Environment Minister, David Kemp, Release 26 Sep 2002
Evaluation of Alleged Deficiencies in Management of the Ranger
Uranium Mine Between 1996 and 1998 ,
Supervising Scientist Report 171
Supervising Scientist & Northern Territory Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development.
Environment Australia, 2002
Supervising Scientist criticizes ERA's environmental management
On April 23, 2002, the Office of the Supervising Scientist released a report which said the internal management of the company in charge of the mine had failed when a uranium leak occurred earlier this year.
Investigation of the Stockpiling and Reporting Incidents at Ranger and Jabiluka 2002, Supervising Scientist, Environment Australia, 2002
> View summary and download full report
Supervising Scientist to Investigate Allegations
Dr Arthur Johnston, the Commonwealth's Supervising Scientist for the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory, will investigate new allegations of inadequate environmental management at the Ranger uranium mine.
> View News release 9 April 2002
Senator criticizes ERA's use of sandbags at Ranger to slow uranium-contaminated flow into Kakadu National Park
Energy Resources of Australia, for the fourth wet season in a row, is using a sandbag wall to slow uranium-contaminated flow from retention pond No. 1 at its Ranger mine into the environment.
Northern Territory Labor Senator Trish Crossin has condemned as inadequate the sandbag wall for raising the height of a retention pond spillway.
According to ERA, the bags were an effective way of reducing water flow into the park while an inquiry was underway into elevated uranium levels in the pond.
(ABC March 20; Advertiser March 21, 2002)
ERA revises down Ranger uranium resources
Energy Resources of Australia has revised-down its contained uranium resources at its Ranger No.3 deposit: since June 30 2000, the total resource has decreased by 15,197 tonnes of uranium to 65,054 tonnes at end-December. Approximately half the reduction is from milling of ore while the remainder is due to the application of tighter inferred ore parameters.
(The Age Feb. 6, 2002)
"On 14 November 1999 the Minister for Industry, Science and Resources issued a new Section 41 Authority allowing the continued operation of the Ranger project for a further 21 years from 9 January 2000. Although the term of the lease is assured, the NLC has reserved the right to renegotiate the environmental and financial terms of the lease at a later date." (ERA - Half Yearly Profit, Production & Exploration Report to 31 December 1999, 28 January 2000 )
On December 14, 1998, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) announced a production cut at its Ranger mine from 5500 to 4000 tonnes uranium per year, due to the low uranium market price. The cut will become effective March 31, 1999.
Bursting leach tank causes major spill of acidic ore slurry at Rio Tinto's Ranger mine - spitting image of accident at Rio Tinto's Rössing mine in Namibia four days earlier
> A nearly identical accident had happened only four days earlier on Dec. 3, 2013, at Rio Tinto's Rössing mine in Namibia, view details.
Rio Tinto Group's Energy Resources Australia (ERA) said a tank at its Rangers uranium mine in Kakadu National Park split, spilling a mixture of acid, ore, mud and water.
The 1,450-cubic-meter leaching tank developed a hole, which caused it to split and release slurry today (Dec. 7), the company said in an e-mailed statement. Processing at the facility will be suspended while a clean up takes place, it said.
(Bloomberg Dec. 7, 2013)
The Federal Government has suspended all processing operations at the Territory's Ranger uranium mine following a toxic spill on the weekend.
The Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane says he's received a full briefing from the mine's operator Energy Resources of Australia.
He said he told the company that it cannot resume processing until it can demonstrate the integrity of the plant to regulators.
ERA has already halted its processing operations.
(ABC Dec. 9, 2013)
Worker injured in clean-up of Ranger uranium mine spill, union says:
A worker has been injured during the clean-up of a toxic spill at the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory, the ABC has been told.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) says a fitter was injured this morning while cleaning up slurry that spilt out of a tank that collapsed last weekend.
Brian Wilkins from the AMWU says the man fell through the crust of the radioactive material up to his armpits.
It is understood the man was cleaned up and asked to return to work, but he refused.
Mine operator Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) says it will look into the validity of the claims.
(ABC Dec. 13, 2013, emphasis added)
On Mar. 27, 2014, ERA presented the results of its root cause investigation:
"This phase of the investigation found that the rubber lining inside Leach Tank 1, which protects the tank structure from corrosion, had been damaged as a result of wear from a partially failed baffle inside the tank. The damaged rubber lining allowed acidic slurry mixture to come into contact with the tank's steel wall, which subsequently corroded and ultimately led to the failure of the tank."
On June 5, 2014, Energy Resources of Australia announced it has received written approval for a progressive restart of processing operations from the Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy and the Commonwealth Minister for Industry.
ERA is now in receipt of all necessary regulatory approvals to resume processing operations at the Ranger mine. The progressive restart of processing operations will commence on 5 June 2014.
On July 8, 2014, Environment Australia released the Supervising Scientist's interim report on the impacts from the Ranger mine spill in December 2013. It is the conclusion of the Supervising Scientist that the leach tank failure has not resulted in any adverse impacts to human health or the surrounding environment, including Kakadu National Park. The investigation does not consider the cause of the leach tank failure, nor does it consider issues related to the condition of the Ranger uranium mine processing facility.
The final report was released on Aug. 28, 2014.
> Download: Investigation into the environmental impacts of the leach tank failure at Ranger uranium mine, December 2013
On Oct. 22, 2014 the Australian Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane, and Northern Territory Minister for Mines and Energy, Willem Westra van Holthe, released the findings of the final independent expert report into the leach tank failure at the Ranger uranium mine.
In their joint statement, the ministers accept the recommendations of the expert panel except for the one to "Review the regulatory framework to ensure a more comprehensive and clear regulatory environment."
> Download: Ranger Independent Expert Investigation: Findings and Recommendations , Oct. 22, 2014
(The full report will not be released due to commercial in-confidence reasons, Mr MacFarlane's spokeswoman said - AAP Oct 23, 2014)
ERA won't face charges for 2013 bursting leach tank spill:
It would not be in the public interest to prosecute the operators of a uranium mine in Kakadu National Park who were responsible for spilling up to one million litres of contaminated acidic slurry, the Northern Territory government says.
On Friday (Feb. 12), the chief executive of the Department of Mines and Energy, Ron Kelly, released his report into the December 2013 incident, saying it was unlikely that laying charges would lead to a successful prosecution, as there was doubt as to whether Rio Tinto subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) actually caused a leach tank to collapse when it failed to properly monitor it or to ensure the tank was strong enough to hold its contents.
(AAP Feb. 12, 2016)
> View Department of Mines and Energy release Feb. 12, 2016
Mining vehicle leaves controlled areas without authorization
Energy Resources of Australia has confirmed that a vehicle used within the mine was taken out of controlled areas, sparking contamination fears among the nearby Mirarr people.
Police are investigating the incident, which took place without the consent of ERA management in the early hours of Sunday (Nov. 3) morning, and which some believe may be a breach of the company's authorisation to mine.
Like all uranium mines, Ranger operates under strict conditions to ensure dangerous levels of uranium do not contaminate the nearby area.
ERA said the car - which was supposed to remain inside the mine at all times - had been checked and was ''free of contamination''.
(Sydney Morning Herald Nov. 8, 2013)
Truck rollover causes 17,000 litres acid spill
Environmentals are concerned about the impact a chemical spill - believed to be one of the largest in recent history - could have on the Top End's international significant wetlands.
Police say up to 17,000 litres of sulphuric acid was spilled last night when a truck rolled over on the Arnhem Highway, near the turn off for Fogg Dam.
The acid leaked from the rear trailer into a culvert on the side of the road, and hazmat crews have spread neutralizing agent to contain the spilled acid.
The road train was heading for the Ranger uranium mine, which sits in the middle of Kakadu National Park.
The Friends of Fogg Dam's president Heather Boulden says the spill should prompt a review of the transport of dangerous liquids through wetland wilderness areas.
(ABC Jan. 2, 2009)
Spill halts Ranger's processing plant
20 litres of process chemicals - an organic kerosene-like material containing small amounts of uranium - have spilled out of a contained area on the site. While mining is continuing, the processing plant was shut down - only one day after it had resumed operation after an outage in response to a government report criticizing the mines water system (see above). (ABC Sep 4, 2004)
Overflow of process water into creek at Ranger
There was an overflow of 150 cubic meters of water on the night of Tuesday 23 March 2004 from a holding tank about a kilometre from the airport on the Ranger mine lease. The water is believed to have contained elevated uranium levels of 108 µg/ltr (four times the safe drinking water guideline).
"We are now concerned however about the traditional owners living downstream and we're concerned about any effects that could have taken place on the environment," Supervising Scientist Dr Johnston said.
(ERA,ABC,Mirarr March 26, 2004)
Uranium leak at Ranger reported late
A uranium leak at the Ranger Mine sent water contamination levels soaring to unprecedented levels. It was one of four breaches of the company's regulations since January 2002.
Incorrect stockpiling of low-grade ore in a catchment area at Ranger is believed responsible for the contamination of Corridor Creek, which is within the lease and connects to the Magela River system used by Aborigines.
According to tests taken by ERA early last month, but not reported to stakeholders until later in February, uranium levels in the creek reached almost 2000 parts per billion – 4000 times the drinking water standard.
(The Australian, March 6, 2002)
Leak at Ranger mine kept secrect for weeks
Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has kept secret a leak of 2000 cubic meters of manganese contaminated water from its Ranger mine to a nearby wetland for several weeks. The leak was detected by ERA on April 5, but was not reported to the authorities until April 28, 2000. This delay meant the leak was not public knowledge when the Federal Government reported to the United Nations on April 15 on the sensitive subject of Ranger's successor, Jabiluka.
ERA did not know when the leak started because wet season flooding from late December prevented testing of the area. (The Age 3 May 2000, Sydney Morning Herald 4 May 2000)
> View North news release 2 May 2000 · ERA news release 4 May 2000
> View Minister for Industry, Science and Resources news release 3 May 2000
In a report released on 27 June, 2000, the Supervising Scientist "concluded that the leak of tailings water had no adverse ecological impact on Kakadu National Park", but ERA did not comply with the reporting requirement. During the investigation, evidence was obtained that a similar event probably has taken place one year earlier.
> View Federal Environment Minister news release June, 27, 2000
> Download report: Investigation of tailings water leak at the Ranger
uranium mine , Supervising Scientist, Environment Australia, June 2000
History of Spills at Ranger mine (1979 - 1996)
Infringements of the Ranger uranium mine environmental requirements - Appendix 2.9 of the Report of the Senate Select Committee on Uranium Mining and Milling, Canberra, May 1997