Australian news, and some related international items

BHP betrays international safety efforts

September 19, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, uranium | Leave a comment

Mirrar people at last have control of Jabiru, as Ranger uranium mining set to end operations

   Traditional owners regain control of Jabiru as historic land rights law passes Senate Natasha Emeck, NT News, 3 Sept 20 HISTORIC land rights legislation that will allow the traditional owners of Jabiru to regain control of their township has passed through the Senate.

Amendments to Aboriginal land rights laws passed through the upper house of federal parliament pm Thursday, returning the ownership of Jabiru to the Mirarr people and allowing for a long-term township lease.

The mining town was built in 1982 to service the Ranger uranium mine, which will cease operation in January 2021, heralding a new era for the town and surrounding Kakadu National Park.

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy said today’s historic moment had been a “long time coming” for the Mirarr people, who had been campaigning for this for 20 years.

Senior Mirarr traditional owner and Kakadu resident Yvonne Margarula, pictured in Kakadu National Park.

Mirarr senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula said her people were glad to see the legal changes finally happen.

They are essential to ensuring the vibrant post-mining future of Jabiru and the Kakadu region that Mirarr have been planning for,” she said.

We look forward to welcoming visitors from all around the world to our beautiful country.”

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, who represents the Mirarr traditional owners, have crafted a masterplan to turn Jabiru into an Indigenous-led tourism and services town.

This bipartisan change to the legislation is an essential step to correct the historical exclusion of the town of Jabiru from Aboriginal ownership and allow Mirarr to take the legal control they need to enact their vision,” chief executive Justin O’Brien said.


September 3, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Uranium ban brought benefit to New South Wales

Uranium ban brought us benefit, Newcastle Herald, Dave Sweeney, Australian Conservation Foundation 23 Aug 20, 

THE state government’s proposed removal of a long-standing and popular ban on uranium mining in New South Wales flies in the face of evidence, community interest and market reality. The global uranium price remains depressed following the Fukushima nuclear disaster and is not likely to recover. The uranium market is over supplied and existing producers are shelving projects across Australia and around the world.

In November 2019 the CEO of the world’s largest uranium miner, Canadian company Cameco, stated that “not only does it not make sense to invest in future primary supply, even the lowest-cost producers are deciding to preserve long-term value by leaving uranium in the ground.”

The ban has served NSW well. It has provided policy certainty and avoided the radioactive waste and legacy mine issues affecting other places, including Kakadu, where a massive $1 billion clean-up is underway at the former Ranger mine. This poorly conceived piece of gesture politics could lead to lower tier and inexperienced mining companies cutting corners and increasing environmental and community risk and it simply makes no sense for NSW to jump aboard a sinking nuclear ship. NSW’s energy future is renewable, not radioactive.

August 24, 2020 Posted by | New South Wales, politics, uranium | Leave a comment

Pointless: Removal of New South Wales Uranium mining ban, as uranium glut continues, and nuclear industry declines

Nuke South Wales?, ACF, Dave Sweeney, 20 Aug 20, 

The proposed removal of a long-standing and popular ban on uranium mining in New South Wales is empty gesture politics that flies in the face of community interest and market reality, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said.

The global uranium price remains depressed following the Fukushima nuclear disaster and is not likely to recover.

“The nuclear power age is winding up, so it makes no sense for NSW to jump aboard a sinking ship,” said ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney.

“The ban is popular and has served NSW well, providing policy certainty and avoiding the radioactive waste and legacy mine issues affecting other places, including Kakadu, where a massive $1 billion clean-up is underway at the former Ranger mine.

“This is empty gesture politics that could lead to lower tier and inexperienced mining companies cutting corners and increasing environmental and community risk.

“This poorly conceived plan puts political posturing above community benefit and could lead to increased pollution and risk for NSW communities and environment for scant gain.

“NSW’s energy future is renewable, not radioactive – this tired political fix is no substitute for a credible and effective energy policy.

“Deputy Premier Barilaro might see this as in the Nationals’ interest, but it is certainly not in the national interest.”

In November 2019 the CEO of the world’s largest uranium miner, Canadian company Cameco, stated, “Not only does it not make sense to invest in future primary supply, even the lowest-cost producers are deciding to preserve long-term value by leaving uranium in the ground.”

The global market is over supplied as existing producers exit or defer projects and higher-grade uranium ore deposits remain in the ground across Australia and around the world.

For context or comment contact Dave Sweeney on 0408 317 812

August 20, 2020 Posted by | New South Wales, politics, uranium | Leave a comment

Uranium mining to become legal in NSW, as govt supports OneNation in nuclear push.

Uranium Mining. NSW govt to support One Nation in Nuclear Push.   Daily Telegraph, 19 Aug 20, 

Uranium mining looks set to become legal in NSW after a deal was struck between Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro to get it through cabinet. … (subscribers only)   NSW to start mining uranium after agreement on plan to lift ban [$] 


August 20, 2020 Posted by | New South Wales, politics, uranium | Leave a comment

BHP’s Uranium mine Olympic Dam makes a financial loss for second year running

Olympic Dam records a second financial year loss, of US$79 million on revenue of US$1.46 billion in 2019-20.   Giving a total three-year loss of approx. US$100 million on revenues of approx. US$4 billion,  with last profit in 2017-18 fin yr of only US$39 million.

Olympic Dam Mining  revenues are at approx. only 2.5 per cent of total BHP corporate revenues,

Not very convincing…

Olympic Dam reports $US79 million loss, is on the lookout for new leader

Olympic Dam’s turnaround story is not yet complete, with BHP’s mega mine posting another loss for the past financial year as it starts the hunt for a new leader.

Cameron England, Business Editor, The Advertiser August 18, 2020

The Olympic Dam mine in South Australia’s Far North has increased its full year loss and is on the lookout for a new leader, global miner BHP has announced.

In reporting its full year results, BHP said Olympic Dam, which produces copper, uranium, gold and silver, had made a full year loss before interest and tax of $US79 million, on revenues of $US1.463 billion.

This is up from a loss the previous financial year of $US58 million on revenues of $1.351 billion.

The mine last reported a profit, of $US39 million off revenues of $US1.255 billion in 2017-18, and has for many years underperformed in comparison with BHP’s high-margin assets such as Western Australian iron ore………

BHP also announced Laura Tyler – asset president Olympic Dam since 2018 – would be promoted to chief technical officer, and a new leader would be sought for the mine…….

“A replacement for the Asset President Olympic Dam will be the subject a future announcement.’’In the interim, Justin Bauer, currently general manager surface development & planning, will become acting asset president……..

But the company is yet to give solid commitments around timelines, financial investments and job numbers for the expansion, as it continues work on internal feasibility studies.

August 20, 2020 Posted by | business, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

Remote community loses their court fight to get uranium-free drinking water

Residents of remote NT community of Laramba lose legal battle over uranium in water, ABC News, By Katrina Beavan and Henry Zwartz  15 July 20, 

Residents of the remote central Australian community of Laramba have lost a case against the Northern Territory Government over high levels of uranium in their drinking water.

Key points:

  • The tribunal ruled drinking water uranium levels were not the housing department’s responsibility
  • The residents were seeking compensation over the contamination and also tap filters to bring their water in line with guidelines
  • The tribunal has called for further submissions relating to claims about housing conditions and repairs

Data compiled by the NT’s Power and Water Corporation had shown there were 0.046 milligrams of uranium per litre (mg/L) in the town’s water supply — close to three times the level recommended in national guidelines.

According to Australia’s national guideline, published by the National Health and Medical Council, uranium levels in drinking water should not exceed 0.017 milligrams per litre.

Residents of Laramba, north-west of Alice Springs, lodged a legal case against the landlord, which in this case is the NT’s Department of Housing.

The case was submitted to the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) in November last year, highlighting problems with not only residents’ drinking water but also housing repairs and conditions in the town.

Residents sought compensation over the uranium contamination and also asked for a filter system on at least one tap in their household kitchens to bring uranium levels in line within Australia’s drinking water guidelines.

But in the NTCAT’s ruling against the residents, the tribunal member Mark O’Reilly said the uranium in the water was not the responsibility of the landlord.

“In my view the landlord’s obligation for habitability is limited to the premises themselves,” the decision read…….

Appeal of NTCAT decision ‘likely’

Daniel Kelly, lawyer assisting for Australian Lawyers for Remote Aboriginal Rights said the result was disappointing and an appeal was likely.

“We’re in the process of speaking to our clients, but our view is — and the views that we’ve been able to garner from our clients are — that we should seek to have this decision reviewed,” Mr Kelly said.

“The decision leaves the question well who is responsible? Because these people have been exposed to uranium in the drinking water for over 10 years.”

“The Department of Housing is doing nothing about it, Power and Water is doing nothing about it and the Northern Territory Government is doing nothing about it.”

In a statement to the ABC, the NT Department of Housing said it would not be providing comment as proceedings were ongoing.

In relation to the rest of the Laramba case, involving housing conditions and repairs, the tribunal has called for further submissions.

July 16, 2020 Posted by | legal, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Queensland splinter political party   North Queensland First pushing for uranium mining in Queensland

Jason Costigan wants Queensland to export uranium again, Canberra Times, Derek Barry  3 July 20

  North Queensland First leader and Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan wants Queensland to lift the ban on uranium mining…….
Uranium mining is legal in South Australia and NT but was banned in Queensland in 1989 by the Labor government, then repealed by the LNP Newman government in 2012, and then banned again in 2015 by the Palaszczuk government. …..
Bob Katter also supported a nuclear power push earlier this year.
The most famous site in the region is Mary Kathleen which was commissioned in the 1950s and one of the largest producers of uranium as yellowcake and sales supplied material primarily intended for USA and UK weapons programs and some electricity production until its contracts ran out……
Today the largest prospective Queensland mine is Paladin’s Valhalla, 40 km north of Mount Isa, with an estimated 8Mlbpa idled capacity.

July 3, 2020 Posted by | Queensland, uranium | Leave a comment

There is really no market in India for Australia’s uranium

No market for Australian uranium in India, 23 June 2020, M V Ramana and Cassandra Jeffery

In 2011, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) voted to overturn a ban on uranium sales to India. The Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between Australia and India was then signed in 2014. The Australian Parliament subsequently passed a bill permitting its uranium mining companies to supply nuclear material to India. These efforts were supposedly intended to allow Australia to profit from Indian uranium purchases.

At the 2011 ALP national conference, then prime minister Julia Gillard argued that India was planning to generate 40 per cent of its electricity with nuclear energy by 2050. ‘Having access to this market is good for Australian jobs’, said Gillard during the conference. The Australian Uranium Association projected that ‘Australia could expect to sell some 2500 tonnes of uranium annually to India by 2030, generating export sales of AU$300 million’ (US$205 million). But nearly a decade later, what is the reality?

Aside from a small shipment of uranium sent to India for testing in 2017, no uranium appears to have been exported to India from Australia. In 2018, India’s Ministry of Atomic Energy stated that the country had signed contracts with firms from Kazakhstan, Canada, Russia and France to procure uranium. And in March 2020, India signed a contract with Uzbekistan. There has been no mention of Australia.

A large order for Australian uranium appears unlikely in the future as well. With a net generating capacity of only 6.2 gigawatts (GW), India does not have a large requirement for uranium in the first place. Further, Australian uranium can only be used for reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, which attempt to ensure that no materials are used for nuclear weapons. Such reactors amount to less than 2 GW of India’s capacity.

India’s nuclear fleet will not expand dramatically either. India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has a long history of setting ambitious nuclear power generation targets and failing to meet them. In 1984, the DAE promised a nuclear capacity of 10 GW by 2000. The actual figure in 2000 was 2.7 GW. By then the DAE had set a new target, 20 GW by 2020. Again, today’s current capacity (6.2 GW) is nowhere close to this target.

Seven more reactors, with a total capacity of 4.8 GW, are under construction. But five of these reactors have been significantly delayed. Four of them were supposed to be commissioned in 2015 and 2016. But these reactors are now expected to start operating in October 2020, September 2021, March 2022 and March 2023 respectively.

The fifth is India’s flagship project, the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR). Construction started in 2004 and the reactor was supposed to start functioning in 2010 but is now ‘expected to commence production of electricity in October 2022’.

Costs have increased, too. The PFBR’s estimate has jumped from Rs 34.9 billion (US$457 million) to Rs 68.4 billion (US$896 million). And the PHWRs will cost around 40–45 per cent more than initially projected.

In contrast, India’s renewable energy sector is a different story. Wind and solar power have only recently been introduced to India’s energy mix, but both technologies are expanding rapidly while becoming significantly cheaper. Between 2016 and 2019, installed solar capacity increased from 9.6 GW to 35 GW, while wind capacity increased from 28.7 GW to 37.5 GW. In 2019, both wind (63.3 terawatt-hours (TWh)) and solar (46.3 TWh) power contributed more to overall electricity generation in India than nuclear power (45.2 TWh).

India’s renewable energy sector is expected to continue growing, while nuclear energy will likely remain stagnant. Recently, the Department of Economic Affairs assembled a task force to ‘identify technically feasible and financially viable infrastructure projects that can be initiated in fiscals 2020–25’. The task force foresaw renewable capacity increasing from 22 per cent of the total installed electrical capacity in 2019 to 39 per cent by 2025. Conversely, nuclear capacity stays around 2 per cent of installed capacity.

Even the Indian government expects the divergence between the growing renewable energy sector and the stagnant nuclear sector to increase as the rapidly falling cost of solar power makes nuclear power redundant.

Australian policymakers who advocated for exporting uranium to India were betting on the wrong energy source. Perhaps there were ulterior motives, including recognising India as a major power. But good policy cannot be made on the basis of false claims.

Australian uranium companies continue to insist that India is expanding its nuclear power capacity. Energy Resources of Australia Ltd’s 2017 annual report claims that ‘India has 22 reactors in operation and plans to generate as much as 25 per cent of electricity from nuclear power by 2050’. Paladin and Yellow Cake made similar claims in 2019.

Nuclear power has never constituted more than a few per cent of India’s electricity supply. Given current trends, it will never amount to much more. Nuclear reactors are expensive and time-consuming to construct, factors that explain why the share of electricity supplied by nuclear power plants globally has declined continuously, from 17.5 per cent in 1996 to 10.15 per cent in 2018. This global trend must be considered by Australian policymakers as they deal with lobbyists for uranium mining and the push there to build nuclear plants.

M V Ramana is Professor, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security, and Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, the University of British Colombia. Cassandra Jeffery is a recent Master‘s of Public Policy and Global Affairs graduate of the University of British Columbia.

June 25, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics international, uranium | Leave a comment

Why we must fight miners’ push to fast-track uranium mines

Expensive, dirty and dangerous: why we must fight miners’ push to fast-track uranium mines, Gavin Mudd, Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering, RMIT University, June 18, 2020    Of all the elements on Earth, none is more strictly controlled under law than uranium. A plethora of international agreements govern its sale and use in energy, research and nuclear weapons.

Australian environmental law considers nuclear actions, such as uranium mining, as a “matter of national environmental significance” under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. This means uranium involves matters of national and international concern for which the Australian government is solely responsible.

The states, which own minerals, cannot exercise such oversight on uranium exports and use. So any new uranium mine needs both state and federal environmental approvals.

The Minerals Council of Australia wants to change this. In a submission to a ten-year review of the EPBC Act, the council argues that uranium’s special treatment is redundant, as environmental risks are already addressed in state approval processes.

On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that BHP’s proposed expansion of the Olympic Dam copper-uranium-gold-silver mine in South Australia was one of 15 major projects set to be fast-tracked for environmental approval. This would include a single, joint state and federal assessment.

But responsibility and past performance make a compelling case to maintain our federal environmental laws more than ever. Here’s why uranium mining must remain a federal issue.

Our international obligations

Australia is a signatory to several international treaties, conventions and agreements concerning nuclear activities and uranium mining and export.

These include safeguards to ensure Australian uranium is used only for peaceful nuclear power or research, and not military uses.

As of the end of 2018, the nuclear material safeguarded under international agreements derived from our uranium exports totalled 212,052 tonnes – including 201.6 tonnes of separated plutonium.

Making sure our uranium trading partners don’t redirect that material for the wrong purpose has been the raison d’être of our nuclear foreign policy since 1977. It’s clearly a national legal and moral obligation, and something the states simply cannot do.

In response, a spokesperson for the Minerals Council of Australia said a national mechanism to manage safeguards already exists through the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, adding:

Uranium is further regulated through the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) […] under the provisions of the ARPANS Regulations 1999. The object of the ARPANS Act is “to protect the health and safety of people, and to protect the environment, from the harmful effects of radiation”.

But ARPANSA regulates radiation safety and not uranium exports. If uranium mining was removed as a nuclear action, then there would be no public process involving our uranium exports – creating more secrecy and reducing scrutiny.

Successful rehabilitation has yet to be seen

Uranium mines are difficult to rehabilitate at the end of their lives. In my 24 years of research, including visiting most sites, I’ve yet to see a successful case study of Australia’s 11 major uranium mines or numerous small sites.

For example, the Rum Jungle mine near Darwin, which operated from 1954 to 1971, left a toxic legacy of acidic and radioactive drainage and a biologically dead Finniss River.

As a military project for the Cold War, it was Australian government-owned, but operated under contract by a company owned by Rio Tinto. The site was rehabilitated with taxpayer money from 1983-86, but by the mid-1990s the works were failing, and pollution levels were again rising.
The Northern Territory government is proposing a new round of rehabilitation. After accounting for inflation to 2019 dollars, Rum Jungle has cost taxpayers A$875 million for a return of A$139 million. The next round of rehabilitation is expected to cost many millions more.

The former Mary Kathleen mine, also part of Rio Tinto’s corporate history, operated from 1958-63 and 1976-82.

Rehabilitation works were completed by 1986 and won national engineering awards for excellence. But by the late 1990s, acid seepage problems emerged from the tailings dam (where mining by-products are stored) and overlying grasses were absorbing toxic heavy metals, creating a risk for grazing cattle.

Rare earth metals are also present in these tailings, leading to the possibility the tailings will be reprocessed to fund the next round of rehabilitation. The site remains in limbo, despite its Instagram fame.

Both Rum Jungle and Mary Kathleen were rehabilitated to the standards of their day, but they have not withstood the test of time.

Australia’s biggest uranium mine, Ranger, is fast approaching the end of its operating life.

Rio Tinto is also the majority owner of Ranger. Despite Ranger’s recent losses, Rio has retained control and given Ranger hundreds of millions of dollars towards ensuring site operations and rehabilitation.

In recent years the cost of rehabilitation has soared from A$565 million in 2011 to A$897 million in 2019, over which time A$603 million has been spent on rehabilitation works.

Site rehabilitation is required to be complete by January 2026, with Rio Tinto and Ranger assuming 25 years of monitoring – although plans and funding for this are still being finalised.

The legal requirement is that no contaminants should cause environmental impacts for 10,000 years, and no other mine has ever faced such a hurdle.

Recently, it emerged that Ranger had not agreed to continue its share of funding the scientific research required for the rehabilitation – an issue still unresolved. So despite promises of world’s best ever rehabilitation, concerns remain.

The Conversation contacted Rio Tinto to respond, and it referred us to Energy Resources Australia (ERA), which operates Ranger. An ERA spokesperson stated:

Since 1994, ERA has made an annual contribution to research into the environmental effects of uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region under an agreement with the Commonwealth. The agreement provides for a review of funding contributions at fixed periods or at either party’s request to acknowledge changes in Ranger operations.

ERA is required to cease processing in January 2021 in accordance with the expiration of its Authority to Operate under the Commonwealth Atomic Energy Act. Given the impending cessation in processing, ERA believes it is appropriate and reasonable to review the current research funding arrangements.

ERA has followed due process in this matter and welcomes the Commonwealth’s decision to support a process of mediation to resolve the issue.

No other former uranium mine in Australia can claim long-term rehabilitation success. Nabarlek, Radium Hill-Port Pirie, South Alligator Valley and other small mines all have issues such as erosion, weeds, remaining infrastructure, radiation hot-spots and/or water contamination. They all require ongoing surveillance.

Uranium mining is set to be outcompeted

Australia’s uranium export revenue from 1977 to December A$2019 was A$29.4 billion. Lithium has now overtaken uranium in export revenue – from 2017 to 2019, lithium earned Australia two to three times our uranium exports.

Even if Olympic Dam expands (and especially if it stops extracting uranium in favour of tellurium, cobalt and rare earths also present), this trend is expected to increase in the coming years as Ranger closes and the world transitions to renewable energy and electric vehicles to help address climate change.

In response, the Minerals Council of Australia stated that lithium’s contribution to large-scale electricity storage is just beginning, arguing:

With the development of new nuclear technologies such as small modular and micro reactors, the prospects for the future of both uranium and lithium are positive and no one should be picking winners apart from the market.
Ultimately, uranium remains an element with immense potential for misuse – as seen with North Korea and other rogue nuclear states. Federal oversight of uranium mining must remain. After all, the price of peace is eternal vigilance.

June 18, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, reference, uranium | Leave a comment

Don’t send uranium to India- Dr Vaishali Patil speaks to Australia

Dr Patil spoke on the first of the Yellowcake Country webinars on 10th June. She spoke of the beautiful country of the Konkon area, formerly a place of thriving agriculture, fruit growing and fishing.  It is now known for having the largest nuclear power plant in the world.  Despite the opposition of farmers and fishermen, this gigantic and enormously expensive nuclear project has gone ahead.

The local people have continued their protest for 15 years. The government has the right to commandeer land for nuclear activities, giving very little compensation.  Many protestors have been gaoled. Livelihoods are threatened, not only by the loss of land, but also, the remaining agricultural and fishing industries lose their markets, due to both the real contamination of the environment, and the perceived contamination, as the area becomes known as a nuclear hub.

Environmental damage has affected the lives of the community, as well as their livelihoods. Radiation has resulted in a rise in cancer incidence. Men who never took part in the past, in protest movements are now joiningthe anti-nucler movement. But women have always been prominent in opposition to nuclear power, in the Jaitapur Anti-Nuclear Movement. It’s a peaceful protest, following Ghandian philosophy. But activists face gaol, and condemnation – are depicted as being against development, against the national interest.

Nuclear power contributes very little to India’s energy, less than 2% of energy supply. However the government invests hugely in it.  Despite the devastation from the recent cyclone, despite the onslaught of the coronavirus, the government pours huge amounts of money into nuclear industry, nuclear weapons. This investment continues, while the cyclone destruction has ravaged the Konkon area, with 7000 school buildings collapsed, 500,000 trees uprooted, and thousands of migrant workers still walking  through.

The National Alliance of Anti Nuclear Movement of India (NAAM) continues its work  and calls for Australia’s anti-nuclear movement to join forces with it, and work to prevent the export of uranium to India.

June 11, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, uranium | Leave a comment

ERA’s focus is now on rehabilitating the Ranger uranium mine site.

ERA, operator of Jabiru’s Ranger uranium mine, has held its last AGM as shutdown date looms

The company behind a contentious uranium mine in Jabiru has held its final AGM before production grinds to a halt, telling shareholders its focus is now on rehabilitating the site.


THE company behind a contentious uranium mine in Jabiru has held its final annual general meeting before production grinds to a halt, telling shareholders its focus is now on the “successful rehabilitation” of the site. Energy Resources Australia, which has run the Ranger uranium mine since 1980, has seven months left to process remaining ore before it is legally required to shut down the site and commence a rigorous five-year rehabilitation program.Mining giant Rio Tinto, which this week made headlines for legally blasting an ancient Aboriginal heritage site in WA to expand a mine, owns a controlling 86.3 per cent stake in ERA. ERA chief executive Paul Arnold told shareholders on Friday the company had spent $92 million rehabilitating the mine in 2019, made $6 million in profit after tax, and $210 million from the sale of uranium oxide. In February, ERA finalised an offer from Rio Tinto to tip $476 million toward mine rehabilitation obligations in return for a larger shareholding slice, a deal that prevented ERA from collapsing financially.

“Expenditure on rehabilitation will only increase in coming years and this is a major Northern Territory project in its own right,” chairman Peter Mansell said in his address to shareholders. “The strategic priority for ERA now is the successful rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area.”

Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney said the rehabilitation standard set for Ranger mine was one “never previously attempted or achieved”, warning mining giant Rio Tinto and ERA that all eyes were on them to get this right. “The challenge is how to rehabilitate the heavily affected mine site and larger Ranger Project Area in a way that reduces adverse impacts and provides confidence that the living and peopled landscape of Kakadu is well protected, now and into the future,” Mr Sweeney said.

Rehabilitation of the mine must conclude in January 2026 and, according to ERA, it will include treating more than 16.5 gigalitres of water and planting 1.1 million trees on site.

June 1, 2020 Posted by | Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

The coronavirus pandemic and the uranium industry

The coronavirus pandemic and the uranium industry

Jim Green, 25 May 2020, Nuclear Monitor #885,

The uranium industry has been harder hit by the coronavirus pandemic than other sectors of the nuclear fuel cycle. Major producers have sharply cut production.

First, a quick summary of the past 15 or so years to put the current turmoil in context. Uranium mine production increased by 50% from 2007 to 2016.1 But the expected nuclear renaissance didn’t eventuate so increased uranium production has resulted in ever-growing stockpiles. Those stockpiles alone would suffice to keep the entire global reactor fleet operating for roughly eight years.2

Surplus production and stagnant demand have put persistent downward pressure on uranium prices. AMP Capital estimated in 2018 that around half the world’s uranium mines are losing money.3 The World Nuclear Association acknowledged in September 2019 that oversupply in recent years has led to a sizable reduction in uranium production levels at existing mines and a sharp decrease in investment in the development of new and existing mines.4 In 2011, according to a uranium company executive, there were about 420 companies around the world exploring for or mining uranium; now, the number is 62, of which 27 have “limited to non-existent resources”.5

Even before the recent pandemic-related cutbacks, numerous mines had been put into care-and-maintenance or production was reduced:6

  • In Australia, the Beverley, Beverley North and Honeymoon mines were put into care-and-maintenance (and at the Ranger mine, mining has ceased and the processing of stockpiled ore will be soon be completed).
  • Cameco has put several uranium mines into care-and-maintenance in recent years: McArthur River (and the Key Lake mill) and Rabbit Lake in Canada, and the Crow Butte and Smith Ranch-Highland in-situ leach mines in the US.7 Plans to expand Crow Butte were abandoned in 2019.
  • Kazakhstan’s (mostly) state-owned uranium producer Kazatomprom cut uranium production by 20% in late 2017. Kazatomprom announced last year that the 20% curtailment of production will be extended until 2021, and its statement left plenty of wriggle-room for curtailment beyond then.8
  • In Africa, the Langer Heinrich and Kayelekera mines were put into care-and-maintenance (and Paladin has since sold the Kayelekera mine).9

Continue reading

May 28, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, uranium | Leave a comment

BHP Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine operates on outdated 1991 era Occupational Radiation Exposure Limits:

BHP Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine operates on outdated 1991 era Occupational Radiation Exposure Limits:

A Bill for a new Radiation Protection and Control Act 2020 goes to the SA Parliament for debate on/from Tues 2nd June, involving a range of untenable 1982 Indenture Act legal privileges to BHP that are retained in the Bill and proposed to be just rolled over into a new Act – which is unfit for the 2020’s…

Please see a Briefing Paper (4 pages) – with sub-headings covering key points:

“BHP Olympic Dam operates under outdated 1991 era Radiation Exposure Standards”

Briefing Paper prepared by David Noonan, Independent Environment Campaigner, 18 May 2020

Strong evidence to Reform a 30-year old standard and apply a Safer Lower Worker Exposure Limit p.1

BHP Olympic Dam underground mine workers face a significant increase in cancer risk p.2

BHP Olympic Dam workers face radiation health impacts double that of cancer risks alone p.3

The Bill and the Olympic Dam mine expansion must trigger a Radiation Safety Review p.4

How long will SA wait to Review and Reform worker radiation exposure health risks?

May 28, 2020 Posted by | politics, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

Australian govt and ERA squabble over monitoring of Ranger uranium clean-up

May 19, 2020 Posted by | Northern Territory, politics, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment