Operations at Energy Resources of Australia's (ERA's) Ranger uranium mine resumed today after heavy rain forced the plant to close for a week. The processing plant on the site, which also shut down, is expected to restart within the next week.
Almost 85 cm of rain fell on Ranger, in Australia's Northern Territory, between 27 February and 4 March, with a total of 75 cm of rain falling in one 72-hour period alone. So far in 2007, the area has received some 1.6 m of rain � more than the total annual average rainfall. The rain was the result of a tropical low pressure system which led to the formation of cyclone George.
ERA reported that mining operations at Ranger stopped on 27 February, as is normal during high rainfall, and the processing plant was shut down the following day. The company said that water inventories at the mine have been managed effectively and that "there has been no adverse environmental impact." However, the impact of the water level in the operating pit is still being assessed.
The company declared a force majeure on its uranium oxide sales contracts, temporarily freeing it of obligations to deliver, as a result of the rain at Ranger. Output from Ranger is expected to be 20-30% lower in the first quarter of 2007, compared with the same period in 2006 when 1392 tonnes of uranium oxide were produced. Production in the second quarter may not be so badly affected, as ERA can process stockpiled ore. However, the impact of the high rainfall is expected to affect production in the second half of 2007.
In 2006, cyclone Monica similarly flooded the Ranger operating pit, resulting in a 20% drop in full-year production.
Energy Resources of Australia
WNA's Australia's Uranium and Who Buys It information paper
WNA's Environmental Aspects of Uranium Mining information paper