The Northern Territory mine regulator’s decision not to prosecute Energy Resources of Australia for a massive 2013 spill at its Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu is derelict, deficient and deeply disappointing, the Australian Conservation Foundation said.
“It has taken the regulator 26 months to do nothing,” said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney. “This is not best practise regulation – it is public relations management.”
“For more than two years the NT regulator has avoided public comment on ERA’s failed operation arguing commentary could compromise future prosecution options. Today’s decision instead demonstrates the only thing that has been compromised is the Department of Mines & Energy’s ability to act in the public interest,” he said.
In December 2013 a large leach tank at the Ranger mine collapsed without warning resulting in the uncontrolled release of 1.4 million litres of acidic and radioactive slurry that overflowed outside the restricted processing plant. The incident saw the federal government suspend operations at the embattled site for six months.
“Many people expected the regulator to step up and regulate – these people and Kakadu deserve better than this failed and flaccid response from the Department.”
Under the terms of ERA’s lease all mining and processing at Ranger is required to cease by January 2021. The company is legally obliged to rehabilitate the site so it can be incorporated into the surrounding World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park by 2026.
“It is increasingly clear that while the impacts of uranium mining continue, the time for uranium mining at Ranger is over.
“ERA’s parent company Rio Tinto has committed to fund the essential rehabilitation; ERA should now accept this offer and start a full clean up,” Dave Sweeney said.
“Given the persistent failure of the NT regulator the federal government must ensure Ranger’s rehabilitation is of a far higher standard than its mining or processing.”