AAP: Key Ranger leak recommendation ignored

Publish Date:
23rd October 2014

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Neda Vanovac AAP

THE Mirarr traditional owners of the Ranger uranium mine site are "bitterly disappointed" that the government released a report into an acidic slurry leak without notifying them, saying the investigation's taskforce process has "broken down".

THE federal and NT governments on Wednesday released a summary of the final findings of an investigation into the collapse of a leach tank at the site last December, which saw the spillage of about one million litres of radioactive and acidic slurry.

The report featured seven recommendations, three of which mine operator Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) must manage, including making sure other leaks and "losses of containment" are properly dealt with, that cultural change is made a high priority, and that ERA be subject to government quarterly monitoring for two years. The government accepted all of the remaining recommendations regarding regulation, except one: a review to ensure a comprehensive and clear regulatory environment for Ranger.

Justin O'Brien, CEO of the Gundjeihmi Corporation, said this review was "critical", but a spokeswoman for the federal Minister for Industry, Ian MacFarlane, told AAP there is already a review process in place.

The government has often called Ranger "the most regulated mine in the world" but the site has had a spotted history of incidents, leaks and security breaches, with several occurring within a few months last year. Mr O'Brien called the tank collapse "yet another example of the poor management and failed systems at Ranger".

ERA's CEO Andrea Sutton said ensuring greater awareness and understanding of process safety measures is a high priority. But Mr O'Brien insisted that in order for traditional owners to have any confidence in the capacity of ERA and regulators to manage the mine, all the report's recommendations had to be acted on, in whole.

Until this is done it would be "ludicrous" for the federal government to consider Ranger's expansion proposal for an underground mine, he said.

The full report will not be released due to commercial in-confidence reasons, Mr MacFarlane's spokeswoman said, and the Australian Conservation Foundation called the summary findings "confusing and limited".

"This report has taken too long and delivered too little; it fails to address the cause of the failure or actively reduce repetition, and its key recommendation has already been ignored," said spokesman Dave Sweeney.