Ranger mine ends processing operations

08 January 2021

Processing operations at Energy Resources of Australia's (ERA) Ranger mine ended today in accordance with legislative and regulatory requirements. The mine, which is in the Northern Territory (NT), was Australia's longest continually operating uranium producer.

The Ranger mine site, with the processing plant in the foreground (Image: ERA)

"Ranger has been a major supplier to global energy markets as well as being a key contributor to the Kakadu region and the Northern Territory," ERA Chief Executive Paul Arnold said, expressing the "heartfelt gratitude" of ERA's Board and management to the operational team and thanking the "many generations of ERA employees who devoted their skills and expertise throughout the life of this mine".

Production at Ranger has been from stockpiled ores since mining operations at the site ended in 2012. Production in the final quarter of 2020 was 390 t U3O8 (331 tU), with production of 1574 t U3O8 for the whole year. This was at the upper end of production guidance, ERA said.

Uranium has been mined at Ranger, located 8 km east of Jabiru and 260 km east of Darwin, for more than 35 years. During that time, the mine has produced over 132,000 t U3O8 and as recently as 2018 - when it accounted for 3% of world uranium production - appeared in World Nuclear Association's top 10 uranium producers. ERA is a major employer in the NT and the Alligator Rivers Region.

Closure of the mine is governed by both Commonwealth and NT legislation. Operations at Ranger are governed by the Ranger Authority, issued under the Northern Territory Mining Management Act 2018. That authority expired today.

Traditional owners of the land covered by the Ranger uranium project informed ERA in 2015 that they did not support any extension of the authority to mine in the project area. Earlier the same year, ERA decided not to proceed with a final feasibility study at Ranger 3 Deeps, which is an extension of the Ranger orebody. ERA today said it now expects to begin work to close the 2.2 km, 400-500 m deep Ranger 3 Deeps decline, excavated as part of those studies, during the first-half of this year.

Progressive rehabilitation of the Ranger area is already under way, and decommissioning of the processing plant scheduled to commence immediately.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News