ERA publishes closure plan for Ranger

06 June 2018

Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has released its closure plan for the Ranger uranium mine in Australia's Northern Territory. Under the existing authority from traditional land owners, mining and processing activities at Ranger must cease in January 2021, with final rehabilitation to be completed by January 2026.

The Ranger mining site, pictured in 2015 (Image: ERA)

The Ranger Mine Closure Plan has been produced as part of ERA's obligations under the Mining Management Act. It describes ERA's mine closure strategy, including progress on closure criteria, as at the end of 2017. ERA said the strategy has been developed "following extensive scientific research, engineering design and stakeholder consultation over the past 30 years".

"It represents the Ranger closure strategy to a prefeasibility study level and has undergone a rigorous assessment by the Rio Tinto Technical Evaluation Group," it said.

The plan covers the Ranger Project Area, which specifically refers to the following areas and assets: the Ranger mine infrastructure, mine pit voids, the exploration decline and all associated utilities within the operational area of the Ranger site; land application areas, wetland filters and other infrastructure associated with the Ranger mine; and, Jabiru Airport and associated infrastructure and utilities situated within the project area. It does not include the town of Jabiru.

ERA said the objective is to close and rehabilitate the entire Ranger Project Area "to form one final landform across the site which will blend with the surrounding landscape". The total area of disturbance in the project area to be rehabilitated is about 950 hectares. The plan includes a schedule of all closure tasks.

The plan has been developed in accordance with the internal requirements for mine closure at Rio Tinto, which holds a 68.4% stake in ERA. The plan has also been compiled with reference to the Western Australian Mine Closure Plan Guidelines while the relevant Northern Territory guidelines are under development.

It incorporates "numerous rounds of feedback following a rigorous 18-month stakeholder consultation process including discussions with the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation and the Northern Land Council, as representatives of the Mirarr Traditional Owners, and Northern Territory and federal government agencies".

ERA said it will now submit the Mine Closure Plan to the supervising authority - the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources - as part of its obligations under the Ranger Authorisation and Mining Management Act.

The closure plan will be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect any changes that have occurred, ERA noted.

Open cut mining started at Ranger in 1980 and continued until 2012, with a total of three pits developed over that time. More than 125,000 tonnes of uranium oxide has been extracted from the mine, which is surrounded by the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.

In October 2015, traditional owners of the land covered by the Ranger uranium project informed ERA that they do not support any extension of the authority to mine in the project area. Under the existing authority, mining and processing activities must cease in January 2021. However, ERA is to continue to supply uranium oxide from existing stockpiles at Ranger until late 2020.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News