Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Mediation continuing over rehabilitation of Range uranium mine

Mediation continues behind closed doors, but the case is a clear reminder that commitments are not set in stone and that clean-up funding for even the most environmentally destructive projects is not guaranteed.

While national and/or state law jurisdictions regulate specific requirements for closure and associated financial assurance, which also determine the period of rehabilitation, it is essential that members of the mining community are aware of applicable law and regulation in all jurisdictions of operation……….

“In the context of price volatility, investment shifts and now Covid-19, many major companies have been mothballing operations and selling mines to juniors, smaller and/or less resourced companies around the world. The most notable may be Blair Athol coal mine in Queensland, sold for $1 in 2016.”

The socio-economic and financial arrangements for closure agreements are especially important in order to avoid dumping the costs on taxpayers and society .

How long should a miner commit to oversight?  https://www.mining-technology.com/news/mining-rio-tinto/   Yoana Cholteeva11 February 2021 

A subsidiary of Rio Tinto is currently in mediation  with the Australian Government over continuing commitments to scientific monitoring of the Ranger mine. We examine the dispute and take a look at some positive examples of land remediation.

Land rehabilitation as part of mining oversight is an essential process where the land in a mining area is returned to some degree of its former state. Recently, a new dispute over the rehabilitation of the Ranger Uranium Mine in the Northern Territory of Australia, owned by a Rio Tinto subsidiary, once again reignited the debate over how long a miner should maintain oversight once operations have stopped.

Rio Tinto’s oversight dilemma

Energy Resources Australia (ERA), a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, is currently in mediation with the Australian Government over payments for scientific monitoring of the Ranger mine, which is scheduled to close in January 2021.

Under an agreement signed with the government, the Ranger mining site, which is on the edge of world heritage wetlands, must be rehabilitated by 2026.

Speaking to ABC in October 2020, Gavin Mudd, a member of Ranger’s independent technical consultation committee, said that the dispute was over funding for an independent monitoring agency for the mine, called the Supervising Scientists Branch.

Exactly why ERA has decided to reconsider the $2.5m in annual funding is not clear. The firm has already spent half a billion dollars on remediation and is expected to pay another $1bn before the rehabilitation project is complete.

In his conversation with ABC, Mudd said “I think there’s so many of us that really don’t know why this sort of decision has been made by head office in Rio and putting ERA in this position.

“When you’re squabbling over $10m to $12m over the next, sort of, half-decade on a project that’s going to cost more than $1b, it’s really perplexing.”

A press release issued earlier in May 2020 said that ERA sought a contractually permitted, periodic review of the terms of its longstanding research funding arrangement with the Commonwealth Government.

“There has been no decision, from any review conducted to date, that ERA’s contribution would cease. Accordingly, in ERA’s view, any presumption that there will be a change in the funding arrangements is premature. ERA has consistently stated that it supports the role of the Supervising Scientist Branch (SSB) and that a decision as to what research, and any other functions, should be carried by the SSB is a matter for the Commonwealth………

Mediation continues behind closed doors, but the case is a clear reminder that commitments are not set in stone and that clean-up funding for even the most environmentally destructive projects is not guaranteed.

In 2009, the Commonwealth supervising scientist appointed to monitor Ranger mine’s environmental impact confirmed at a Senate committee hearing that about 100 cubic metres of contaminant were leaking from the mine’s tailings dam into rock fissures beneath the national park every day. There have been more than 150 leaks, spills, and licence breaches at the Ranger mine since it opened in 1981, including a burst leach tank at the mine that released up to one million litres of radioactive slurry in 2013.

Eventually, the mine was forced to close after the local Mirrar native title holders revoked their permission.

The legal side of mining oversight

According to the 2006 Leading Practice Sustainable Development Programme for the Australian mining industry, mine closure is preceded by mine completion and when “a completed mine has reached a state where mining lease ownership can be relinquished and responsibility accepted by the next land user”.

While national and/or state law jurisdictions regulate specific requirements for closure and associated financial assurance, which also determine the period of rehabilitation, it is essential that members of the mining community are aware of applicable law and regulation in all jurisdictions of operation……….

“While remediation rules are particularly strict, there are case studies all around the world where mining operators have managed to abandon their sites without performing closure and post-closure management. Given the current climate and unstable economy, mining firms might even be further inclined to try and avoid rehabilitation costs,” Piaget says.

“In the context of price volatility, investment shifts and now Covid-19, many major companies have been mothballing operations and selling mines to juniors, smaller and/or less resourced companies around the world. The most notable may be Blair Athol coal mine in Queensland, sold for $1 in 2016.”

The socio-economic and financial arrangements for closure agreements are especially important in order to avoid dumping the costs on taxpayers and society …….  https://www.mining-technology.com/news/mining-rio-tinto/

February 18, 2021 - Posted by | environment, Northern Territory, uranium

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