Government orders NT uranium miner to suspend operations

Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia has been ordered to suspend all operations after a leach tank ruptured releasing acidic radioactive slurry on Saturday.

The Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy together with Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane have ordered the company to suspend processing operations at its Ranger Mine, located in the Kakadu National Park.

“The Australian Government has suspended processing operations at the Ranger Uranium Mine,” the Department of Industry stated.

Minister Macfarlane has been briefed by ERA chief executive Andrea Sutton on clean-up strategies and said the matter will be dealt with.

“I have told ERA today that they cannot resume processing at Ranger until the company demonstrates the integrity of the processing plant to the satisfaction of the regulatory authorities,” he said.

The operation will not be allowed to restart without regulatory approval and ERA will have to demonstrate the integrity of the Ranger processing plant.

“ERA must also demonstrate that Kakadu National Park and human safety remain protected,” Macfarlane said.

“I understand the concerns of traditional owners and local residents and can assure them that the Government will continue to ensure the mine operates to the highest standards.”

Setting up a taskforce, the NT Department of Mines, WorkSafe, scientists and Commonwealth Government representatives will manage the regulatory response to the incident.

“The Supervising Scientist has begun a full investigation of the site,” Macfarlane said.

“Preliminary reports indicate that the spill was contained within the plant area and that there is no threat to the surrounding environment or human health outside the immediate area.”

ERA said it will work closely with all members of the taskforce.

“ERA will fully comply with the requirements in the notifications,” the company said in a statement.

The company told Australian Mining it initially suspended operations when the leak was discovered at 1am on Saturday morning.

A hole was found in the side of a leach tank within the mine's processing area.

Employees were evacuated before it collapsed.

It is not yet clear how much material leaked out of the faulty tank, which has a capacity of approximately 1,450 cubic metres.

A crane that had been used to assist in blocking the original hole was damaged when the tank gave way.

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