Uranium miner ERA was told not to burn off on day of blaze: NT Fire Service http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-19/uranium-miner-era-told-not-to-burn-off-on-day-of-blaze/6867590
The fire, which ERA lit to manage weeds at its Ranger mine near Jabiru on October 1, became wild and threatened important Aboriginal cultural sites before it was extinguished a week later.
It is now being investigated by the federal Department of Environment.
A spokesman for the NTFRS said the organisation was contacted by ERA on the day it started the fire and its recommendation to the group was not to go ahead with the blaze.
“In response to an inquiry from the Ranger mine at 7:00am on the day in question, NTFRS recommended there should be no burn due to the high fire danger that day,” a spokesman said in a brief statement. ERA has previously said it notified Parks Australia the day prior to the fire and they were not advised against the back burn.
The miner has not specifically commented on the NTFRS advice.
“ERA is not required to seek approval or obtain a permit for such activities on the Ranger Project Area,” an ERA spokeswoman said.
“ERA followed its normal protocol to notify stakeholders prior to undertaking weed management activities.”
The miner said that on the day the burn was undertaken there was no fire ban in place in the region where the mine was located.
It has offered to pay for the aerial water bombing operations and said it is conducting its own internal investigation into the fire.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has committed to an inquiry into the fire. This is welcome but any inquiry needs to be open and transparent, not simply another yellowcake whitewash.
Kakadu has been burnt but it is ERA who should be in the firing line. The company lacks the commitment, capacity and competence to conduct such a dangerous trade in such a special place and the recent fire is further proof that it is time to close the chapter on uranium mining in Kakadu.
Uranium miner in the firing line over Kakadu burn http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/10/13/comment-uranium-miner-firing-line-over-kakadu-burn A week-long fire in the World Heritage listed Kakadu has caused significant environmental damage and threatened Aboriginal art and cultural sites, writes Dave Sweeney. The smoke is finally starting to settle over Australia’s largest national park. For a week Kakadu has been burning following the escape of a “controlled” fire lit by the uranium mining company Energy Resources of Australia.
In a case of good luck rather than good management, no one was seriously injured but, as the flames die down and the damage assessment and questions start up, more of ERA’s shrinking credibility has literally gone up in smoke.
While the full extent of the damage is not yet known, the fire burned over 200 square kilometres of the World Heritage listed Kakadu, causing significant environmental damage and threatening ancient and important Aboriginal art and cultural sites. Continue reading
Kakadu bushfire: Dept of Environment to investigate Ranger mine burn-off that spread to national park, ABC News, 9 Oct 15 The federal Environment Department says it will investigate a fire started by Energy Resources Australia (ERA) that spread into Kakadu National Park, threatening important cultural sites.
The fire started at ERA’s Ranger uranium mine a week ago and spread into the World Heritage-listed park, threatening several culturally sensitive Indigenous sites. In a statement to the ABC, a spokesman for Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt described the fire as a “very serious matter”.”Minister Hunt has asked the Department and Parks Australia to conduct a full and thorough investigation into the cause of the fire,” the statement said.
“No permission was sought and no approval was received for the lighting of the fire by ERA.
“We will not hesitate to seek reimbursement for the costs of firefighting if negligence or wrongdoing are in any way shown.
“Additionally, a breach of the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act can result in fines of up to $8.5 million.”
The ABC understands the NT Department of Mines and Energy will also be investigating the fire………
Aboriginal groups angry over fire
Justin O’Brien from the Gunjeihmi Corporation, which represents the area’s traditional owners, said ERA needed “to be taught about the sensitive environment” they operate in. “There’s an argument to say they should be prosecuted for what they’ve done, this is the second year in a row that they’ve done this, It’s almost a replica of last year,” he said.
“They are not learning so they need to be taught about the sensitive environment which they’re operating in.”
The Northern Land Council (NLC) said it was not confident a federal investigation would find anyone accountable for the fire.
Joe Morrison, CEO of the NLC, said he wanted to see traditional fire management practices reinstated.
“There’s been lots of fires and lots of investigations in relation to Kakadu and surrounds for a long time, we wouldn’t want to hold our breath,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison said he wanted to see Aboriginal people “take control of that agenda and reinstate their traditional fire management practices”. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-09/dept-of-environment-to-investigate-era-kakadu-fire/6842436
NT uranium mine fire: Traditional owners call on mine operator to take responsibility for blaze http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-07/kakadu-uranium-mine-fire/6832666Traditional owners are calling on the operator of the Ranger Uranium Mine to take responsibility for a fire that is threatening important cultural sites in Kakadu National Park.
They are also warning if the out-of-control fire spreads into Kakadu’s escarpment country, it will be too difficult to contain. Parks Australia said the blaze started when the mine’s operator, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), began weed management burning which then spread into Kakadu.
Justin O’Brien from the Gunjeihmi Corporation, which represents the area’s traditional owners, said ERA should fund efforts to put out the fire. “I mean there’s an argument to say they should be prosecuted for what they’ve done, this is the second year in a row that they’ve done this, It’s almost a replica of last year,” he said. “They are not learning so they need to be taught about the sensitive environment which they’re operating in.”
Mr O’Brien said the fire was close to escarpment country, where it would be very difficult to put out. “If this fire gets into the escarpment, there’s no water in there,” he said “You can’t do suppression from the air, you cannot get boots on the ground in that country, it’s too rugged. “All you can do is wait for it to put itself out, that’s not acceptable.”
Mr O’Brien said hundreds of rock art galleries, plants and animals in Radon Springs are threatened by the fire. One of Kakadu National Park’s most significant cultural sites, Nourlangie Rock, featuring Indigenous rock art showing early contact with Europeans, as well as other art up to 50,000 years old, has been closed to tourists.
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.
May 15, 2015 by maxphillips The Greens coal seam gas spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today said that the conclusions from theNSW EPA’s completed investigations into Uranium contamination at Santos’ Narrabri CSG operations revealed alarmingly poor management and insufficient monitoring and he called on Santos to abandon the Narrabri project.
In their report, the EPA have said that they “have concerns with aspects of the site operations and management” and are issuing Santos with two legally binding Pollution Reduction Programs (PRPs) to improve groundwater monitoring.
“The myth that no cases of aquifer contaminations have occurred in NSW was busted by this incident where elevated levels of Uranium and other heavy metals were found in the groundwater near Santos’ holding ponds,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.
“No level of Uranium or other heavy metal contamination from coal seam gas is acceptable and the pathetic $1500 EPA at the time is hardly a deterrent to Santos or other companies.”
“It is alarming that the EPA have confirmed Santos does not have a sufficient monitoring program in place. Yet again we find that the management of a coal seam gas operation is not up to scratch and that pollution incidents cannot be properly assessed.”
“The Greens believe that coal seam gas is unnecessary, unwanted and unsafe and that Santos should pack up and leave NSW,” Mr Buckingham said. Contact: Max Phillips – 9230 2202 or 0427 713 101
AUDIO Worker ‘fell in’ to radioactive slurry pit, ABC Radio AM Michael Coggan reported this story on Saturday, December 14, 2013
SIMON SANTOW: The operators of the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory are facing fresh allegations they are cutting corners on safety.
A worker told his union he sunk up to his armpits into radioactive slurry while helping to clean up a massive toxic spill caused by the collapse of part of the mine’s processing plant last weekend.
The company that runs the mine, Energy Resources of Australia, says it can’t confirm the workplace accident and is checking the validity of the claim. Michael Coggan reports from Darwin.
MICHAEL COGGAN: When a 1,400 cubic metre leach tank at the Ranger uranium mine fell apart last Saturday, workers had to evacuate to avoid being hit by the mixture of sulphuric acid and uranium it was holding…….
MICHAEL COGGAN: What does that say about the safety of the mine site?
BRYAN WILKINS: I think this is fairly typical of safety on that mine site. And it goes to show when the minister said the mine was safe the other day, he obviously wasn’t right. There still are safety issues on that site, and there needs to be that full independent inquiry that we called for…….http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2013/s3911651.htm
NT uranium mine suspended after radioactive leak SMH, 10 Dec 13,The federal government has suspended operations at the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory, after a major leak of acid and radioactive slurry at the weekend.
The mine’s operator, Energy Resources of Australia, insists there has been no environmental impact from the million-litre spill, but this view is contested by local indigenous people and environment groups…….
On Friday, workers detected a hole in leach tank one within the mine’s processing area, which has a capacity of about 1.5 million litres. The next day, the tank split, pouring out a slurry of mud, water, ore and sulphuric acid…….
The NT Environment Centre said it did not believe ERA when the company said there had been no environmental impacts.
”It’s clear there’s contaminated water from the burst tank on soil,” director Stuart Blanch said.
There have been more than 200 safety breaches and incidents over the past 30 years at the site, according to the centre, which says the slurry spill overflowed levee banks designed to contain it and got into the mine’s stormwater drain system.
The regional organiser of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Bryan Wilkins, said that during the construction and installation of the leaking tank, in 1993 or 1994, the welding was not properly tested. ”I know it wasn’t – I was there,” he said.
An investigation to determine what caused the tank to give way was being commissioned, ERA chief executive Andrea Sutton said……. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/nt-uranium-mine-suspended-after-radioactive-leak-20131209-2z1un.html#ixzz2n5vZT1Pe
20 Nov 13 The Northern Territory (NT) Branch of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) is very concerned that four drums used for yellowcake transport have recently been found at a property in Darwin’s rural area, as reported in local media.
“We expect an immediate investigation into the radioactivity of these drums will follow and a further public and environmental health response will be taken accordingly. We understand these drums have since been claimed by ERA and taken to the Ranger mine,” said Dr Michael Fonda, PHAA’s NT Branch Secretary.
This current case follows a serious operational breach earlier this month where a Ranger mine vehicle left a controlled and contaminated area without authorisation.
“These latest incidents – in the context of more than one hundred reported safety failures over the last 30 years – continue to cast doubt on the effectiveness of the safety regulations at Ranger. They also come at a time when ERA is seeking approval for an expansion to uranium mining at the Ranger mine with the 3 Deepsunderground project,” explained Dr Fonda.
Of further concern are comments made by NT Mines Minister Willem Westra van Holthe yesterday, suggesting less Federal Government scrutiny in future NT uranium mining projects.
“These safety incidents, along with the inherent dangers associated with the uranium industry, reinforce the importance of strict government regulation at a federal level. The NT Branch of PHAA is calling for an urgent independent public inquiry into the safety operations at Ranger, including any proposed expansion of the industry in the region,” said Dr Fonda.
For further information/comment: Dr Michael Fonda, NT Branch Secretary, Public Health Association of Australia 0429 435 595
Uranium contamination fears: police investigate Rio Tinto Ranger mine SMH, November 8, 2013 Peter Ker Resources reporter Rio Tinto’s relationship with an indigenous group in Kakadu National Park has taken ”two steps backward” after a safety breach at the Ranger uranium mine.
The Rio subsidiary that operates Ranger, 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 Mirrar people. Police are investigating the incident, which took place without the consent of ERA management in the early hours of Sunday 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”.
But Justin O’Brien, who represents the Mirrar people, said it had caused great concern among the local community.
”We think it is very serious that you could take potentially contaminated material from an operational mine site, avoid all scrutiny, leave the mine site with it and then be found down the highway,” he said. ”There needs to be a broader inquiry into how on earth this could happen in the first place.”
ERA’s relationship with the Mirrar people is crucial to its survival, given the company has agreed not to restart mining at Ranger without approval from the group. Ranger ceased operating as an open-cut mine last year, and its only future lies in winning approval to become an underground mine in coming years.
The nearby Jabiluka uranium deposit will also not be mined until the Mirrar people give their full support, something that appears unlikely any time soon………Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Dave Sweeney said it was not the first breach at Ranger, and it was time for Rio Tinto to ”reconsider the project”. http://www.smh.com.au/business/uranium-contamination-fears-police-investigate-rio-tinto-ranger-mine-20131107-2x46w.html#ixzz2k5tWwFN7