Australian news, and some related international items

Taxpayers likely to cop the costs of Ranger uranium clean-up. if ERA goes bankrupt

text-my-money-2as Ranger was authorised by the Commonwealth Government under 1953 Atomic Energy Act which primarily allowed the uranium to be used for military purposes, the Commonwealth and, ultimately the taxpayers, could be liable for the clean up if ERA was bankrupted.

ERA faces closure after uranium miner’s expansion plans shelved by Rio Tinto, ABC News, 30 June 15  By business reporter Stephen Letts Sorry history, uncertain environmental legacy Apart from the discharge of a million litres of radioactive slurry in 2013, Ranger has a sorry history of accidents with more than 200 environmental incidents being reported to government agencies since 1979.

Ranger-pitJust how much Ranger’s clean-up will cost is open to question. Under existing legislation, once the lease expires early in 2021, ERA has five years to complete the rehabilitation program.

Gavin Mudd, a senior lecturer in environmental engineering at Monash University with a long standing interest in Ranger, argues there are problems calculating the final cost as it depends on a number of choices, including how long is an adequate period of monitoring radioactivity levels.

The level of radioactivity around the site is unlikely to be safe any time soon given the half-life of uranium-238 is 4.5 billion years. The half-lives of other principal radioactive components of mill tailings, thorium-230 and radium-226, are shorter at about 75,000 years and 1,600 years respectively, but it’s a rather academic distinction.

Currently there is not a stipulated period for monitoring levels of radiation at the site once the rehabilitation is completed. However, Dr Mudd said a monitoring program should be run over decades rather than years.

“Fifty years would be a good start,” he said. Continue reading

July 1, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

The end of the line for uranium company Energy Resources of Australia

burial.uranium-industryERA faces closure after uranium miner’s expansion plans shelved by Rio Tinto, ABC News, 30 June 15  By business reporter Stephen Letts ERA was once one of the world biggest uranium producers, supplying about 10 per cent of the global market for ‘yellowcake’ and powering electricity utilities in Japan, Europe and North America.

It’s now pretty well friendless as its last three independent directors resigned, leaving the company in the hands of its majority shareholder Rio Tinto.

Rio for its part said there is no future for ERA’s only productive asset, the Ranger Mine, which operates in the middle of the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park.

With its existing open mine resources exhausted, ERA has been labouring on, processing stockpiled ore since late 2012.

Ranger’s last hope lay in an ambitious and expensive underground mine – the Ranger 3 Deeps project – which could have extended the mine’s life by another decade. That hope was extinguished earlier this month when Rio, with its 68 per cent stake in ERA, said enough was enough. The market was blindsided by Rio’s decision, with ERA’s share price tumbling more than 70 per cent in the aftermath.

In hindsight it was probably inevitable.

ERA’s losses mount to $700 million since 2011 Continue reading

July 1, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Energy Resources of Australia – half of uranium company’s Board quits

Half of Australian uranium miner’s board quits after Rio shelves project SYDNEY, JUNE 22 Half of the board at uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia resigned on Monday, saying majority owner Rio Tinto’s decision to abandon work on a major mine expansion made it difficult for the company to pursue its goals.

ERA’s stock has plunged more than 70 percent since it said on June 12 that it would not proceed with the final development study for its Ranger 3 Deeps uranium project in northern Australia due to low uranium prices.

Uranium prices have tumbled since the March 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant. Japan has idled its entire industry in response, exacerbating a worldwide supply glut.

Three ERA directors, including Chairman Peter McMahon, resigned, leaving the board with just three members, the company said in statement. ERA, a separately listed division in which Rio Tinto holds a 68.4 percent stake, said a search for replacement directors had been approved.

Rio has said it may have to book a $300 million charge relating to its stake in ERA after the Ranger 3 project was shelved. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

June 24, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Traditional Aboriginal owners of Muckaty remain vigilant against nuclear waste dumping

text-wise-owlGovt still looking for nuclear waste site one year after pursuing Muckaty , SBS News,  Today marks one year since the federal government agreed to stop pursuing Muckaty, Northern Territory, as a site to store nuclear waste. By Andrea Booth Source: NITV News


A court case had been battling the issue for nearly 10 years.

The Northern Land Council nominated Muckaty, located 120 kilometres from Tennant Creek, as a site for a dump in 2006 with the Muckaty community to receive a $12 million benefits package. But Warlmanpa and Marumungu people in Muckaty claimed they had not been consulted about the plan.

The threat of a nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal Land continues after the government called for other land owners, councils or organisations to nominate their land for the facility.

The Department of Industry and Science told media this year it remained “committed” to finding a site.

handsoffTraditional owners of Muckaty say they feel they must continue to defend their land and culture from nuclear waste.  Aunty Jeanie Sambo told NITV News that a nuclear waste dump would destroy them. “It will probably poison [everything] that we live [from], like the animals that we hunt and the river that we drink out of,” she said. “It is not good for us.”

Australia produces nuclear waste and sends it overseas as the country does not yet have its own processing facilities. International agreements require that the processed material be returned to Australia.

Australia has about 5,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste.

Protecting Manawangku was filmed through the lead up to a major rally in Tenant Creek against the proposed dump ..

June 20, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

New White Paper on Northern Australia might undermine Indigenous land rights

handsoffDon’t use northern development as ‘Trojan Horse’ to undermine Indigenous land rights, Noel Pearson warns, ABC News By political reporter Anna Henderson, 19 June 15  Influential Cape York Indigenous representative Noel Pearson has warned that development of the north must not be used as a “Trojan Horse” to undermine Indigenous land rights.

The Federal Government has unveiled the northern Australia white paper, a blueprint for policy ideas to develop the sparsely populated region and capitalise on lucrative resources.

The white paper included a section on simplifying land arrangements and a commitment that Indigenous Australians should have the “same opportunities as other Australians to leverage their land assets and generate wealth”.

It also said the Federal Government aimed to have all current native title claims finalised within a decade. Mr Pearson — who attended the Cairns launch of the policy — said the white paper’s reference to expediting native title claims was “certainly welcome”.

“They’re good words,” he said. But he said there have always been concerns that state, territory and federal governments may use the policy to erode progress in the land rights campaign.

 “The concern is that we shouldn’t use the development of the north as a Trojan Horse for undermining the Mabo decision and Indigenous land rights,” he said. “We will never agree to being railroaded by developers.”

The Aboriginal leader also said the policy would not achieve anything if land tenure issues were not addressed…….

June 20, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Northern Territory’s Environmental Defenders Office will stay open, despite federal funding cut

Environmental Defenders Office NT to stay open; other jurisdictions enter ‘caretaker’ mode following funding cuts   105.7 ABC Darwin  By Emilia Terzon The Northern Territory wing of the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) will stay open another year despite Federal Government funding cuts, after holding an Indigenous art auction and receiving an emergency grant.

The news comes as EDOs in other jurisdictions enter caretaker mode, following the loss of $10 million in funding for the nationwide network of environment-focused legal centres.

EDO NT lost $450,000 in funding following a 2013 announcement that EDOs across the country would be completely defunded by July 1, 2015.

Offices in northern Queensland and South Australia are now entering caretaker mode, while the Western Australia office also had its State Government funding entirely withdrawn last month. Continue reading

June 20, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, Northern Territory, politics | Leave a comment

Developing North Australia – at the expense of Aboriginal land rights?

The really ‘horrid’ parts of Developing North Australia concern the proposed treatment of exclusive native title and of that hard-won land returned as communal Aboriginal freehold under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. Both represent the highest form of recognition of Aboriginal land interests and both are targets.
handsoffIf governments want to work in a “full partnership” with Aboriginal people in The North then they must stop treating their interests in land as something to be dealt with for the convenience of those governments and the powerful interests behind them.

Abbott’s white paper for the black tropics: Boon or boondoggle? Crikey, 

BOB GOSFORD | JUN 19, 2015 “………Aboriginal people are the fastest-growing demographic, at current rates of population growth, half of the North’s population will be blackfellows by 2050.

So how are Aboriginal interests treated in Developing North Australia? This is the ‘horrid’ part. At page 4 of Developing North Australia we are told that:

Developing the north will need to be done in full partnership with Indigenous Australians, with a focus on creating opportunities through education, job creation and economic development. These opportunities for Indigenous Australians will contribute to achieving the objectives of the Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

Noble sentiments but a reliance on the vexed Indigenous Advancement Strategy rings out some very loud warning bells. The first chapter is entitled “Simpler Land Arrangements to Support Investment” and some elements of the plan are welcome–particularly the fast-tracking of outstanding native title claims for resolution within the next ten years, increased funding for native title representative bodies and modest increased support for indigenous ranger groups and pastoral land use pilot projects. A streamlining of the needlessly complex native title Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA) processes, which should be simplified to resemble the standard lease arrangements used widely by the NT land councils, is also welcome.

Overall though, the approach to Aboriginal land interests in Developing North Australia appears very much to be one of “you’ve got something and we want it back.”

This is particularly apparent in the emphasis on “township leasing” that will see control of Aboriginal land in townships–by far the most commercially valuable land in the Aboriginal estate–controlled of a Commonwealth bureaucracy and  measures to “cut red tape” around hard-won cultural heritage protections. The old saw of “Aboriginal home ownership”–creating housing markets in communities largely reliant on welfare income and where no market exists–also gets a run. Continue reading

June 19, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Investors flee Energy Resources of Australia as its uranium mining plans stop

graph-down-uraniumERA shares in death spiral as prospects slashed, SMH, June 15, 20 Peter Ker The uranium miner operating beside Kakadu National Park may have zero chance of restarting mining at the site, according to UBS analyst Glyn Lawcock.

Speaking after shares in Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) lost more than 48 per cent of their value on Friday, Mr Lawcock said the decision to abandon plans for an expansion of the Ranger mine warranted a downgrading of the stock to a “sell” rating.

Many ERA shareholders were doing just that on Monday, with the stock falling a further 25.4 per cent or 17¢ to close at 50¢.

ERA shares were worth $1.29 at market close on Thursday, prior to ERA announcing that it would not go ahead with an underground expansion at the Ranger mine. That expansion, called “Ranger 3 Deeps”, was the only chance of future mining at Ranger, where mining of the third pit ceased in 2011……

Rio Tinto has offered to cover the shortage of funds to complete the rehabilitation, but it is believed that offer is conditional on ERA ruling out any further development at Ranger, something ERA is not yet willing to do……

The funding shortfall for the rehabilitation is believed to be close to $200 million, although Mr Drew speculated it could be as high as $500 million.

Uranium prices have been depressed since the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in March 2011, and that weakness was one of the major reasons why the underground expansion was abandoned….

June 17, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Rio Tinto will have to step in to fund rehabilitation of Kakadu’s uranium mining area

kakaduERA cans Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu by: BARRY FITZGERALD , Resources Editor  The Australian June 12, 2015 The crash in uranium prices in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has claimed the controversial Ranger mine inside the world heritage-listed Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory as its latest victim.


Operated by the Rio Tinto-controlled Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), Ranger’s long-term future was to be secured by the development of an underground uranium resource known as Ranger 3 Deeps.

But ERA has canned the development, citing the “current operating environment”. The decision leaves ERA to process stockpiles from the previous open-cut operation which was dogged in recent years by water handling issues and process plant spills.

Shares in ERA plummeted after the announcement. At 2:10pm the shares were down 61c, or 47 per cent, to 69c each in trading on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Rio (RIO) owns 62 per cent of the ASX-listed ERA and said last night that it would likely take a $US300 million impairment charge on the investment — an acknowledgment that in the current environment, its investment is near worthless.

Rio could also be compelled to step in to ensure that in the event that Ranger’s life is not extended beyond the current treatment of stockpiles, ERA will be able to meet its rehabilitation costs of more than $600m…….

Despite seeming to baulk at having to help ERA at its annual meeting in April, Rio said last night that it recognised the “importance of ongoing rehabilitation work at the Ranger mine site”.

It said it was “engaged with ERA on a conditional credit facility to assist ERA to fund its rehabilitation program, should additional funding be required beyond ERA’s existing cash reserves and the future earnings from processing ore stockpiles”….

June 13, 2015 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

World will be watching how Australia manages Kakadu, now that uranium mining there has ended

Koongarra 1WWF welcomes cancellation of Kakadu uranium mine

WWF has welcomed the cancellation of a planned controversial underground uranium mine in Kakadu National Park.

Energy Resources of Australia, whose parent company is Rio Tinto, cancelled the Ranger 3 Deeps project in a statement to the Stock Exchange last night.

The proposed mine was in an area that had previously been excised from the Kakadu National Park and World Heritage Area.

WWF said the move was not only a victory for Australia’s environment, but also important for further economic empowerment of Indigenous communities.

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman backed calls by the Mirarr Traditional Owners to ensuring the permanent protection of the natural and cultural values for which Kakadu is inscribed World Heritage.

“Kakadu is one of Australia’s environmental treasures and this development presents an ideal opportunity for the area to be rehabilitated and incorporated into the Kakadu World Heritage Area,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.

“Now that the mine will not go ahead, WWF looks forward to ERA and Rio Tinto accelerating the rehabilitation program, ensuring that it results in the full reinstatement of the internationally recognised outstanding natural and cultural values of this important site.

“With a World Heritage Committee meeting now less than a month away, the eyes of the world will be watching how the Australian Government and Rio Tinto manage the rehabilitation of Ranger.”

June 13, 2015 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Uranium glut, Ranger shutdown, leave Rio Tinto with $300M writedown

scrutiny-on-costsRio Tinto mulls $300M writedown as uranium mine expansion cancelled,  Cecilia Jamasmie | June 12, 2015 Mining giant Rio Tinto (LON, ASX:RIO) is contemplating to take a writedown of about $300 million after its subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia (ASX:ERA) decided to cancel plans to expand a uranium mine.

ERA, in which Rio has a 68.4% stake, said on Thursday that it would not proceed with the final feasibility study of its Ranger 3 Deeps uranium project in Australia’s Northern Territory, citing weak market conditions.

The decision underscores the ongoing strains in the nuclear industry following the Fukushima meltdown in 2011, which prompted Japan to mothball its 43 operable reactors, causing uranium prices to drop as a result of a worldwide supply glut……..

June 12, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Mirarr Traditional Owners of the Ranger Uranium Mine area oppose any further uranium mining

handsoffGundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, 12 June 15 The Mirarr Traditional Owners of the Ranger Uranium Mine area and the site of the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine release this statement following yesterday’s announcements by Energy Resources of Australia and Rio Tinto that ERA will not at this time proceed with the final feasibility study of the proposed Ranger 3 Deeps underground mine.

The Mirarr and the GAC welcome the clarity that yesterday’s announcements provide in terms of the present viability of the Ranger Three Deeps project. We are also pleased that both companies now publicly recognise the importance of adequately financing the rehabilitation of the Ranger site.

First and foremost in our minds is ensuring the permanent protection of the natural and cultural values for which Kakadu is inscribed World Heritage. We need to see a concrete and comprehensive commitment and plan for the clean-up of Kakadu; that commitment and planning needs to start today.

Mirarr have maintained ongoing dialogue with ERA and governments throughout this process and notwithstanding today’s announcement will continue to talk through all relevant issues as necessary. However, as things stand today we will not support any extended term of mining at Ranger beyond 2021.

We take this position because of our experience of 30 years of environmental and cultural impacts at Ranger and because in our talks with Rio Tinto and the Australian government we have been given no guarantee that Ranger will be the last uranium mine in Kakadu. The Mirarr remain fundamentally opposed to Jabiluka’s development – that opposition is intergenerational. We are concerned about the lack of adequate planning for Jabiluka’s final rehabilitation and its incorporation into Kakadu National Park. ____________________________________________________________________________________ For further information contact 08 8979 2200 / 0427 008 765

June 12, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Ranger 3 Deeps cancellation should spell end of an ERA for uranium mining in Kakadu

kakaduNorthern Territory and national environment groups have welcomed the announcement that a planned underground uranium mine in Kakadu – Energy Resources of Australia’s Ranger 3 Deeps project – has been cancelled.

“ERA’s move to abandon plans for an underground expansion at Ranger is an overdue acknowledgement that the underground mine plan lacked economic and environmental sense. It is also a significant step towards the end of uranium mining in Kakadu,” said Nuclear-Free campaigner Lauren Mellor.

Local and national environment groups have for long called for ERA and parent company Rio Tinto to commit to the rehabilitation of the Ranger site and have welcomed that ERA’s ASX announcement has now accepted it needs to secure adequate rehabilitation funding.

“We welcome the fact that ERA has sought an assurance from its parent company Rio Tinto that the required clean-up costs will come at the expense of the company and not the public,” said ACF spokesperson Dave Sweeney.

“ERA has lost around $1 billion on the under-performing Ranger project and has left its run too late in developing the Ranger 3 Deeps proposal – with the continuing low post-Fukushima commodity price the window for uranium mining at Ranger is closing and the operation has moved from dig up to clean up.”

The groups have called for all project applications and approvals to be withdrawn and for ERA to detail its closure and clean-up plan and costings.

*ERA ASX announcement available here:

For further context and comment contact:

Lauren Mellor, Environment Centre NT on 0413 534 125

Dave Sweeney, Australian Conservation Foundation on 0408 317 812

June 12, 2015 Posted by | Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Energy Resources of Australia(ERA) announces it is not proceeding with Ranger uranium min eexpansion

Ranger-3Uranium miner Energy Resources Australia pulls plug on 3 Deeps expansion, ABC News 11 June 15   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.

The 3 Deeps expansion would have seen the Ranger Uranium Mine commence underground operations for the first time. Its current operations are open-cut.

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……

June 12, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Northern Territory Mines Departments Credibility and ERA’s Contaminants both down the Creek

ENVIRONMENT CENTRE NT – AUSTRALIAN CONSERVATION FOUNDATION 5 JUNE 2015 On World Environment Day NT and national environment organisations have called on the NT Department of Mines to explain why Energy Resources of Australia, operator of the embattled Ranger uranium mine, should not be prosecuted over a major radioactive spill inside the boundaries of Kakadu National Park.


“Today – World Environment Day – marks twelve months since Energy Resources of Australia gained approval to restart processing at Ranger following a major radioactive spill from a collapsed leach tank in December 2013,” said Lauren Mellor from the Environment Centre NT.

“That a spill of over 1.3 million litres of radioactive slurry happened inside a World Heritage listed National Park is unacceptable: that we still don’t know why twelve months after operations have been resumed is derelict”.

Environment groups are concerned that a subsequent string of regulatory failures indicates that the NT Mines Department is ill-equipped to meet its responsibilities to protect the environment, workers and communities.

In the 12 months since the Ranger restart was approved DME has:

  • Failed to release its report into the 2013 radioactive spill accident, even to other Investigative Taskforce member agencies or Traditional Owners.
  • Failed to prosecute ERA for clear operational breaches under the Mines Management Act to improve safety and environmental protection at Ranger.
  • Been unable to oversight ERA’s water monitoring due to staff shortages and deficient testing, meaning at some sites with contamination trends there was no independent oversight.
  • Not implemented a key recommendation of the Independent Expert’s incident report into the leach tank failure and radioactive spill calling for a complete regulatory overhaul at Ranger.
  • Failed to address contamination trends in Gulungul Creek, part of Kakadu National Park downstream from the mines leaking tailings dam. DME must apply statutory requirements to its deficient monitoring program as recommended by a 2003 Senate Inquiry into Ranger Uranium Mine. This is despite significant spikes of electrical conductivity indicating impacts from the mine are now being seen in Kakadu waters.

“The NT Mines Minister’s inaction on this major incident appears to be a case of prioritising the operations of Energy Resources of Australia above the protection of Kakadu National Park,” said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney.

World Environment Day is a perfect time to send a clear message that poor mining practises are neither acceptable, nor above the law. Kakadu deserves better than complacency,” concluded Mr Sweeney.

Contact:   Lauren Mellor, Environment Centre NT, 0413 534 125  Dave Sweeney, Australian Conservation Foundation, 0408 317 812

June 6, 2015 Posted by | - incidents, Northern Territory, politics | Leave a comment


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