Australian news, and some related international items

Media gagged: Energy resources of Australia can’t afford to rehabilitate Ranger uranium mine?

see-no-evilMedia banned from Rio Tinto’s ERA AGM after concerns about uranium mine rehabilitation, ABC News  By Joanna Crothers 14 Apr 15  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.

The mine, near Jabiru which is surrounded by Kakadu National Park, 230 kilometres east of Darwin, is run by Energy Resources of Australia (ERA).


ERA is majority-owned by mining giant Rio Tinto. Ranger Uranium Mine is one of Australia’s three operating uranium mines.

On Monday, the NT Environment Centre said it had “major concerns” ERA would no longer be able to afford the full cost of rehabilitation, estimated at $512 million, due to suffering substantial losses over the past few years.

The company reported a $136 million loss for the 2013-14 financial year which was an $83 million improvement on the previous year.

ERA has said rehabilitation is funded under its current business plan, but if a proposed underground mine known as Three Deeps is not developed it may require another source of funding to pay for all of the rehabilitation works.

Environment Centre spokeswoman Lauren Mellor said she would raise these concerns at ERA’s AGM being held in Darwin today. Media have been told they cannot attend the meeting, even without recording devices, despite journalists having been able to attend previous ERA AGMs.

Speeches from the AGM have been published on the ERA website.

On Monday, Ms Mellor said she wanted to know whether parent company Rio Tinto would cover costs of rehabilitation should ERA be unable to pay.

“We’ll be asking to board of ERA whether they believe that the parent company, who does have the financial capacity to achieve rehabilitation, should be held responsible in the event that ERA no longer has the money to achieve this huge cyclical challenge of rehabilitating Kakadu National Park.

“What we’ve been seeing is Rio Tinto as a major shareholder, which is certainly not short of cash in the way that ERA is, trying to deflect criticism and attention and its corporate ties to this particular project and sidestep that responsibility.”……..

April 15, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Northern Territory Remote Aborigines – “We were not adequately consulted on fracking permits”

Northern Territory Indigenous community says it was not adequately consulted over fracking permits By Nadia Daly Yaho 7 News,  March 29, 2015, The granting of fracking permits on Aboriginal freehold land in the Northern Territory is stoking tensions among some residents of a remote Aboriginal community who say they were not adequately consulted.

Last week, the NT Government announced it had granted the first two petroleum exploration permits on Aboriginal land managed by the Northern Land Council (NLC).

Jilkminggan community, 140 kilometres south-east of Katherine, with a population of about 300, sits in a zone that excludes fracking, according to the NLC.

However, fracking has been permitted over nearby swathes of land. News that gas companies could now drill exploratory wells on their land came as a shock to many in the community. Continue reading

April 4, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Doubts about the future of ERA’s Ranger uranium mine

Any attempt to extend the lease will be controversial.

As colleague Peter Ker reported in February, the traditional owners seem pretty wedded to the idea that mining stops in 2021 and rehab is completed by 2026.

kakaduRanger’s community issues stretch well beyond its sometimes fractured relationships with its local hosts, the Mirarr people. An extension will become an issue of serious contest across a sweep of the environmental movement both because of what it mines (uranium) and where it is (inside the Kakadu National Park).  

Rio Tinto worried about ERA’s Ranger uranium mine  bMatthew Stevens

The fate of Energy Resources Australia hangs in precarious balance with majority-owner Rio Tinto growing increasingly uncertain about the competitive economics and investment risk of a life-sustaining underground expansion at Australia’s most productive uranium project, the Ranger mine.

Rio owns 68 per cent of ERA and the Australian-listed uranium miner’s only operating asset is Ranger, a 30-year-old mine of occasionally extreme controversy.

Mining at Ranger’s open pit stopped more than two years ago and production is currently sustained by legacy stockpiles.

The longer future of ERA swings on an underground project called Ranger 3 Deeps, which has been the subject of $200 million in pre-feasibility investment over the past two years alone and requires up to $60 million more before a final investment decision might be secured. Continue reading

April 3, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Federal and State funding removed from top Northern Territory Environment Groups

End is nigh for NT environmental advocacy groups as funding runs out, ABC News 26 Feb 15  By Elliana Lawford Two environmental advocacy groups in the Northern Territory are set to close as government funding cuts announced last year start to bite.

The Environment Centre NT (ECNT) has told the ABC a number of staff were laid off last week and the centre has limited their operating hours from five to three days a week.

The organisation has led campaigns against uranium miningpollutiongas exploration and water extraction licences. ECNT chair Tony Young said he was worried there would be no-one to fight for environmental issues in the Northern Territory if the centre closed.

“If there is no independent voice to point these things out then the problems continue and they are exacerbated,” he said. “The range and complexity of the environmental problems the Northern Territory faces really deserves a properly funded, independent, science-based voice … that’s what is in danger.”

The ECNT lost $185,000 in last year’s Territory budget.

The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) is also struggling and has announced it will close on June 30, after it lost $450,000 in Federal Government funding. EDO chair Kirsty Howey said the office could not operate without financial help.

“With the cutting of federal funding at the EDO, we are looking at shutting the doors on June 30 this year,” she said.

“We just don’t have the money to survive any longer.”

NT Environment Minister Gary Higgins said he was unperturbed by the looming closures of the ECNT and the EDO……..

Labor spokeswoman Nicole Manison said both organisations were needed in the community.

“We need to have a full and independent voice for the government out there in the community,” she said.

“They bring up some pretty tough issues for governments and a good government would actually listen to them.”

Both organisations are still trying to secure independent funding that could delay their closures.

February 27, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Northern Territory, politics | Leave a comment

Continuing process of removing Aboriginals from their land, making way for mining

handsoffAboriginal people driven from their land Green Left, Friday, February 20, 2015 By Emma Murphy “…………..It is now eight years since the Howard Coalition government launched its appalling intervention into NT Aboriginal Communities — the NT Emergency Response package. While the intervention may seem like old news, it continues to be raised as an example of the increasing neoliberal offensive against Aboriginal people’s right to their own land, identity, and self-determination.

History certainly did not stop in 2007 when the intervention started. Aspects of the intervention, such as income management and increased police presence, have continued and there have been many more attacks as well, not just in the NT, but across the country.

The intervention and policies banning bilingual education and undermining NT homelands, were really about launching an attack on Aboriginal identity and culture. They were about undermining a way of life that really isn’t compatible with capitalism; a way of life that involved collective property rights and aspirations other than home ownership and careers. It is a way of life that embraces multilingualism, sustainability and quite often strong opposition to the extractive resource industry.

Many of the policies in the NT were seen, in one way or another, as forcing Aboriginal people off their land, whether to free up resource-rich land for the extractive industries or to push remote Aboriginal people into larger, more “viable” service hubs.

Right now in Western Australia, Aboriginal people living in remote communities are facing a similar disastrous social experiment. The Barnett government has foreshadowed the closure of more than 100 remote communities. Continue reading

February 25, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Northern Territory, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Australian Aboriginals’ widespread resistance to fracking

Australia Needs New Approaches to Fracking Fracking in Australia continues to meet widespread resistance from Aboriginals. In Western Australia, Buru Energy’s negotiations with traditional landowners in the Canning Basin have been largely unsuccessful, and communities are organizing camp outs to stop the company. In Queensland, the weakening of environmental protections has prompted the Mithaka Peoples to go the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, claiming that “Australia has taken no action to ensure that we are consulted and involved in these decisions, or to protect our rights to our culture.” In the Northern Territory, communities have formed the Northern Territory Frack Free Alliance to oppose the drilling of boreholes and wells near aquifers.

The Australian government is attempting to circumvent these groups with legislative and regulatory changes. While this may accelerate the issuance of permits in the short term, Australia cannot expect to develop a sustainable oil economy without Aboriginal support, and will need to drastically shift its approaches to fracking on Aboriginal territories.

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.

February 25, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Australian government gave Jeffrey Lee an OBE, but not a house, when he gave his land to Kakadu

Lee,JeffreyJeffrey Lee’s Koongarra – where love for land trumps love for money, Crikey, 
BOB GOSFORD | FEB 16, 2015  “I have said no to uranium mining at Koongarra because I believe that the land and my cultural beliefs are more important than mining and money. Money come 
THE words projected on a big screen at the final plenary session of the World Parks Congress in Sydney late last year said it all: “I could be a rich man today. Billions of dollars … You know, you can offer me anything, but my land is a cultural land,” read the script accompanying an image of Jeffrey Lee on his land at Koongarra which is now incorporated into the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.


Jeffrey Lee, the senior Traditional Owner of the Djok clan, speaks for the 12,000 hectares of land which used to comprise the former Koongarra Project Area. It contains an estimated 12,000 tonnes of high grade uranium which the French nuclear and mining company, Areva, has long been trying to access and develop.

Mr Lee told thousands of delegates to the World Parks Congress of his decision to gift the land at Koongarra to the World Heritage estate, rather than reap a fortune in royalties if it had been mined for uranium. And he told them of his modest request to the Australian Government for help to build a house on his country.

Alas, it seems that the Government is not prepared to reciprocate his generosity……..

“I don’t want the Government to forget me. They came to visit me; they congratulated me on my hard work and said they will support me in this. The Government knows how hard I worked, they gave me an Order of Australia and I’m happy for that. Now I just want a commitment from them for a house so I can live on that country that I fought for.”

Jeffrey Lee was granted an Order of Australia award in January 2012.

The citation said: “For service to conservation and the environment in the Northern Territory, particularly through advocacy roles for the inclusion of the Djok Gundjeihmi country as a World Heritage area within Kakadu National Park.

Land Rights News asked the Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, whether he was considering assistance for Mr Lee to build an outstation on his country. The reply, from his Parliamentary Secretary, Simon Birmingham, was far from positive…… “Unfortunately, there is no Australian Government funding available to construct an outstation at Koongarra, but we are helping where we can……..

February 21, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

ERA uranium miner posted profit losses for past 4 years

Uranium miner ERA posts new profit losses Australian Mining,17 February, 2015 Ben Hagemann Energy Resources Australia has posted a loss on net profits for the fourth year running, as the company moves closer to first ore from the Ranger 3 Deeps project.

The ERA full year report for 2014 shows sales revenue up from $356.1 million in 2013 to $379.2 million, however nets profits have dropped from -$135.8 million to -$187.8 million.

Production has copped a beating as the Ranger begins to reach the end of its mine life, down to 1165 drummed tonnes in 2014, compared to 2960 in 2013 and 3710 in 2012.

The Ranger mine will continue mining until 2021, with full rehabilitation required by 2026, and has spent $378 million on rehab and water management over the past 2 years……

February 18, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia tight-lipped about its Ranger mine’s gloomy financial situation

Ranger-3ERA keeps its Ranger delay very hush-hush BY CRAIG DUNLOP NT NEWS FEBRUARY 11, 2015  ENERGY Resources Australia 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.

“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.

The knock-on effects from the failure of a leach tank in 2013 continued to be felt until mid-2014, as the company was forced to purchase, and then onsell, uranium in order to meet its prearranged sales ­contracts.

The delay has pleased environmental groups, who have long objected to Ranger 3, with the Environment Centre NT and the Australian Conservation Foundation labelling the expansion plans “unviable”.

The Environment Centre NT’s Lauren Mellor said: “The delay on investment in the Ranger 3 Deeps project is a major setback for both Rio and ERA, with costs continuing to blow out and time running out for this short-term, high-risk venture.”………

    In light of the losses and the investment required in Ranger 3, the company’s directors have not issued a dividend.

February 13, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Rio’s investment delay adds difficulty to Ranger 3 Deeps uranium mine proposal 

cliff-money-nuclear13 Feb 15 National and Territory Environment Groups have today welcomed the announcement that investment in Ranger 3 Deeps, a controversial new underground uranium mine proposal has been significantly delayed by Rio Tinto, majority owner of the embattled Ranger uranium mine within the boundaries of Kakadu National Park.


The decision came off the back of further record losses for Rio subsidiary and Ranger mine operator Energy Resources of Australia of $188 million in 2014 and $136 million in 2013. ERA have now suffered five consecutive yearly losses totalling $500 million.

“Ranger’s underground mine has become a money pit for Rio Tinto, with the company investing hundreds of millions in feasibility studies and an underground decline tunnel in recent years, and has faced unprecedented community opposition receiving over 4500 public submissions opposing the mine during the Environment Impact Assessment public comment phase in December last year,” Lauren Mellor, Nuclear-free Campaigner with the Environment Centre NT said.

“The delay on investment in the Ranger 3 Deeps project is a major setback for both Rio and ERA, with costs continuing to blow out and time running out for this short-term, high risk venture. Years of sustained uranium company and sector losses have shown even the industry’s biggest players are getting cold feet for new mines, with no commodity price recovery predicted within ten years – well past the legal operating timeframe for Ranger 3 Deeps.”

“This decision by the Rio board is a long overdue recognition that the project, like the wider uranium industry, is unviable. It has a very limited lease life, with all mining on the Ranger lease mandated to end in 2021, at a time when the commodity price has never been lower, making old mines like Ranger struggle, and new projects like Ranger 3 Deeps  buckle.” said Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“Day by day, every delay and every lost dollar makes this project less viable and less likely. “The nuclear industry simply can’t compete, on cost, construction times and on community standards for environmental protection. Like Ranger mine its well past its use by date and the NT and Federal governments should be using this company delay to instead accelerate a rehabilitation plan for Kakadu that will see the region and its inhabitants protected for the long haul.”


February 13, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Australian govt to cut off basic services to up to 200 indigenous communities

Australia May Stop Providing Water and Power to Remote Aboriginal Communities, New Daily, By Jessica Lukjanow February 10, 2015 Up to 200 indigenous communities in Australia could lose access to power and water because the government says it can no longer afford to deliver the basic services.

The remote communities are mainly located across the northern tip of Australia and the Kimberley in the country’s northwest. The federal government announced late last year that it would stop paying for the utilities, making states responsible for the communities. The Western Australia (WA) state government says it can’t afford to cover the costs.

Rodney Dillon, an indigenous advisor at Amnesty International Australia, told VICE News that some members of the indigenous communities might not survive a move.

“It would be a complete culture shock, a complete mental shock,” Dillon said. “This is their homeland. It’s where they belong it’s where they are proud. They are the keepers of the land. Some might stay and die on the land. The older individuals won’t manage it — it might kill them.”……..

Initial hopes of establishing a $1 billion “Royalties for Regions” fund, which would have used 25 percent of the state’s mining royalties to cover the cost of power and water for the communities, were quashed this week by WA Premier Colin Barnett, who stressed that the government has not yet reached a solution.

Minster for Regional Development Terry Redman originally floated the “Royalties for Regions” idea, but has since said he was “misunderstood” by the media. He stressed to VICE News that it was simply one option……….

Asked if communities had been contacted about the potential closures, the state’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier said last week that a consultation that involved “going out to all the communities” would be “just nonsensical,” and that “consultation in a general sense will continue” instead.

Dillon said such a consultation has been non-existent so far.

“The communities haven’t been contacted, no one’s asking anything,” he said. “This is going to be done without consultation, it will be a couple of blokes with a coffee in Perth making these decisions.”

The government will decide which communities stay open and which are “not viable” for investment, Dillon added.

The Partnership of Western Australian Aboriginal Land Councils invited Barnett and other key WA politicians to discuss the issue in early March, but they have yet to receive a response…….

The criteria that determines whether a community is viable has not been released, but both Redman and Barnett have stressed the likelihood that at least some of the 274 communities in the state will have to close, perhaps as many as 200.

Lauren Pike, a spokeswoman for the Kimberley Land Council, described what happened in 2011 when the government shuttered an indigenous community in Oombulgurri, a community in the eastern Kimberley, and relocated the residents to Wyndham, about 45 kilometers away.

“The result was just devastating,” Pike said. “They literally told these people to get out of their homes and that they couldn’t stay or come back, and then dumped them in the mangroves around the town.

“Houses weren’t provided — nothing was provided,” she continued. “People in the town literally had to hand out borrowed sleeping bags and blankets for these people coming in so they could have something to sleep on outside. It caused so much trouble in the community, and it only got worse from there. Suddenly people had access to alcohol, to illicit substances. It was just an absolute state of poverty.”……..

Dillon believes any future living conditions in the remote communities would consist of the bare minimum.

“They would be moved to very poor conditions,” he said. “They’re frightened and scared and they speak a different language. Now they’re all possibly going to be moved into slums and shanty towns in the city.”

Groups campaigning against the closure also believe moving the indigenous people into new towns would cost the government more in the long run than if they just maintained the status quo.

February 11, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Energy Resources of Australia, uranium miner, suffers another annual loss

cliff-money-nuclearUranium miner’s loss widens, Yahoo News 7 Feb 15 The operator of the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu National Park has suffered another annual loss and expects the uranium market to remain challenging.

The Rio Tinto-owned Energy Resources of Australia made a $188 million loss in 2014, after suffering a loss of $136 million in 2013.

The company expects to increase its uranium production in 2015, after output was dented in 2014 because of the suspension of processing operations for more than six months after the failure of a leach tank in December 2013.

The company’s purchase of uranium oxide to fulfil sales dragged on its earnings……..

February 7, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Audio: Push to develop Northern Australia linked to push to dismantle Aboriginal land rights

Hear-This-wayTop End traditional owners fear land rights will be dismantled in push to develop the north (AUDIO) ABC Radio PM Sara Everingham reported this story on Thursday, December 11, 2014  MARK COLVIN: The Northern Land Council says it’s deeply concerned that the push to develop Northern Australia could dismantle hard-fought Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory.

A COAG taskforce met today in Canberra to nut out the detail of its review of Indigenous land administration as part of the white paper on developing Northern Australia.

Sara Everingham reports from Darwin.

SARA EVERINGHAM: In Kakadu National Park, about 80 traditional owners from across the Top End have spent the week in talks as part of the Northern Land Council’s full council meeting………………

The Northern Territory has set up its own working group, with at least eight staff, including former Northern Land Council lawyers.

The Northern Land Council doesn’t know what the review will look at but suspects it will explore greater use of 99 year leases on Aboriginal land.

The council also says it’s been informed by the Federal Government it will revisit an amendment to the Northern Territory Land Rights Act which would devolve powers of the land councils to smaller Indigenous corporations.

The deputy Land Council chairman John Daly says traditional owners must be consulted.

JOHN DALY: We’ve got a Prime Minister for Indigenous Australia and they put out press releases prior to them winning the elections that they would have no reviews, no amendments to the Land Rights Act and things like that, Native Title, without the consent of traditional owners and the land councils. ……

December 13, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Audiovisual, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Federal govt watering down Aboriginal land rights, betrayal by Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Nigel Scullion

handsoffNorthern Land Council accuses Senator Nigel Scullion of breaking election promise on land rights, ABC News  By the National Reporting Team’s Kate Wild 11 Dec 14 Australia’s largest Aboriginal land council has accused Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Nigel Scullion of breaking a promise that the Coalition, if it won government, would not review or amend the Land Rights Act.

Holding a copy of Senator Scullion’s press release, titled No changes to NT Land Rights and dated August 14, 2013, Northern Land Council (NLC) deputy chairman John Daly accused the Minister of proposing a review of land rights legislation without the consent of traditional owners.

“Prior to him getting in as the Minister, this here says he wasn’t going to do any reviews or anything like that without the consent of traditional owners and the land council,” he said.

Really there isn’t, and hasn’t been, any conversation with Aboriginal people about the future of the Land Rights Act.

Joe Morrison, NLC chief executive

“And this is just another broken promise from this government.”

The comments were made today at a full council meeting that Senator Scullion did not attend………..

NLC’s questions are ‘pressing for the nation’

NLC chief executive Joe Morrison said council members wanted to put questions to the Minister they believed were “pressing for the nation”.

These included Federal Government plans to water down the Land Rights Act, pressure on Aboriginal towns to sign 99 year leases, and the Federal Government’s use of Aboriginal money earned from mining royalties, he said.…………. Continue reading

December 13, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Northern Territory, politics | Leave a comment

Media excluded, Aboriginals protest, as Minerals Council meets in Darwin

text-aboriginal-rightsTraditional owners target Minerals Council  HERALD SUN, NEDA VANOVAC AAP DECEMBER 04, 2014   ABORIGINAL traditional owners have heckled government and mining industry representatives at a Minerals Council summit, calling for an end to mining on their lands. ABOUT 30 traditional owners and family members drove to Darwin from Maningrida, with some driving all night to make the 1400km from Borroloola by morning.

Conrad Rory, a Yanyula and Garrawa man from Borroloola, told AAP the MacArthur River Mine near his community was having a detrimental impact on the tidal river. The mine’s independent monitor reported last year that 90 per cent of fish caught downstream of the mine exceeded maximum permitted concentrations of metals and isotopes as outlined by the national food standards guidelines.

“What we’re really hoping to accomplish is shutting down the mine,” Mr Rory said. “Since they diverted the river it’s been flowing really slow, the colour’s changed, we’ve found dead fish and crabs.”

Jackie Green, an elder from Borroloola, was critical of mine operators he saw as plundering Aboriginal land and then moving on………. Mr Green accused the government of separating families to obtain consent for mining on Aboriginal land.”They grab one Aboriginal person and take him aside and chuck a chocolate across his table and he eats that and other Aboriginal people don’t know what’s going on.”Five police cars were sent to monitor the small protest, and the doors to Darwin’s convention centre were locked.Media were barred from attending sessions with industry leaders such as Andrea Sutton, CEO of Energy Resources of Australia, and Sam Strohmayr, general manager of Glencore………

December 5, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory | Leave a comment


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