Global mining group Rio Tinto will be urged to clearly and unconditionally commit to the full rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine site in Kakadu at the company’s Australian annual meeting in Perth today.

Rio is the majority (68 per cent) shareholder in Kakadu uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), the operator of the embattled Ranger mine in the Northern Territory’s Kakadu World Heritage region.

The Ranger mine, which has been plagued by more than 200 leaks, spills and incidents, is moving towards the end of its operating life with mining and mineral processing to cease in January 2021 and the mine lease subsequently rehabilitated to a standard acceptable for inclusion in the surrounding Kakadu National Park.

“Across Australia and around the world Rio Tinto will be closely watched and long judged on how it manages the closure and rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine,” said ACF nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney.

“Rio has a responsibility to ensure ERA fully honours its extensive rehabilitation obligations.

“This week Rio Tinto has a platform to demonstrate it is serious about its reputation and its rhetoric.”

National and NT environment groups welcomed the following comments by Rio Tinto Chair Jan du Plessis at the group’s London annual meeting last month:

We absolutely appreciate the need to take care of that site and to make sure it is properly rehabilitated and that it is restored in the way that people would expect from this company. I can assure you today however that should the board of ERA should at any point call a rights issue to get further capital into the company, we will follow our rights as shareholders to put further capital into the company so that they can meet their obligations.

The call for greater attention on rehabilitation at Ranger comes amid continuing uncertainty about ERA’s financial capacity to meet its rehabilitation costs and the company’s continued promotion of a proposed underground mining plan – the so called Ranger 3 Deeps project.  

“The Ranger mine is under pressure and underperforming,” said Environment Centre NT Nuclear-free Campaigner Lauren Mellor.

“Instead of sinking further capital into a short-term underground mining project, Rio Tinto and Kakadu would be better served by a commitment to long term rehabilitation.

“As the window closes on the era of uranium mining in Kakadu it is time for Rio to make sure ERA delivers on Ranger rehabilitation.”

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