An Aboriginal group in Kakadu National Park says the rehabilitation plan for a decommissioned uranium mine is “woefully inadequate”, calling for a 26-year extension to the process.
- Mining at the Ranger Uranium Mine wound up yesterday after more than 40 years
- Traditional owners in Kakadu are now calling for an extension of the project’s rehabilitation phase
- The company that runs the mine has signalled its support for the move
Production at the Ranger Uranium Mine, on the outskirts of the national park, drew to a close yesterday after more than 40 years of operation.
Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents Mirarr traditional owners, has used the closure to demand owner Energy Resources Australia (ERA) rehabilitate the site beyond its current lease expiry in 2026.
Within that timeframe, the company is required to restore the site to its previous pristine state.
“That’s not long enough,” the corporation’s CEO, Justin O’Brien, said.
“We are now awaiting a drafting from the Commonwealth Government for amendments to the Atomic Energy Act such that you can actually put in place an extension to the rehabilitation period.”
Mr O’Brien said traditional owners were pushing for the rehabilitation period to be extended by an additional 26 years, which would carry the process through until 2052.
He said ERA and its parent company, Rio Tinto, had signalled their support for an extended term of rehabilitation — but the timeframe and details of that extension are still being negotiated.
In a statement, the company said it was committed to “achieving all documented rehabilitation outcomes in its Mine Closure Plan (MCP) by January 2026”.
It confirmed negotiations were underway with traditional owners to “determine an appropriate mechanism” to extend the company’s tenure at the Ranger site, which would allow it to continue rehabilitation beyond 2026.
Environmental group the Australian Conservation Foundation yesterday welcomed the end of production at the site, the last active uranium mine in the Northern Territory.
The foundation’s Dave Sweeney, who is an anti-nuclear campaigner, said he was supportive of the push to extend the rehabilitation period.
“The company should not be approaching clean-up asking itself what it can do in five years,” he said.
“It should be approaching clean-up asking ‘What is the best possible way to reduce and address the damage that has happened?’
“What’s the best outcome — not the best outcome we can do in five years.”
The wind-down of production at the mine is expected to prompt an exodus from the nearby town of Jabiru, where ERA holds the lease for about 300 houses.
One hundred and twenty-five ERA staff were made redundant this week.
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