Environment groups have called for an immediate halt to operations at the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu following a major contamination leak.
Around one million litres of highly acidic radioactive slurry has escaped from the mine’s containment area following the collapse of a tank in the processing area early in the morning on December 7.
Mine workers identified the breach in the tank and were evacuated before the tank burst leaving the area contaminated with radioactive slurry.
The spill is the latest and most severe of a string of recent management and systems failures at Ranger and poses a direct threat to the environment of the mine-site and beyond.
“The Ranger mine is increasingly a danger mine,” said Environment Centre NT campaigner Lauren Mellor. “This is a massive system failure at an increasingly dysfunctional mine.
“In the last month Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) have lost control of mine vehicles and containers and now they have lost control of a large volume of contaminant”.
The groups have called for:
• An immediate halt to operations at the Ranger site pending an independent audit of the structural integrity of the entire plant and infrastructure;
• A full review of the impacts of operations at Ranger - as recommended by the UN secretary general following the Fukushima nuclear disaster;
• The end of plans for underground mining at Ranger and no further advance of the so called Ranger “3 Deeps” project.
The groups have called for urgent action by NT and federal regulators to address the spill and the wider risks from Ranger from over 200 recorded spills, leaks and breaches in its operational lifetime.
Kakadu deserves the highest level of protection and assurance and the groups have urged ERA parent company Rio Tinto to end corporate support for the planned new R3D underground operation.
“Ranger is aging, failing and risking and Rio need to match their corporate rhetoric with action,” said Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Dave Sweeney.
“The time for mining a problematic and polluting mineral in a World Heritage area is over. ERA has lost its credibility and its social license.
This spill needs to be on Rio’s radar and the company needs to accelerate the closure, clean-up and exit of uranium mining in Kakadu”.