Australian: ERA digs deep in search of a future

Publish Date:
10th April 2014

by Barry Fitzgerald

ENERGY Resources of Australia’s long-term future as a uranium producer takes shape in the December half with the planned lodgement of a critical environmental impact statement into the development of the Ranger 3 Deeps underground mine.

The move underground by the 68 per cent-owned Rio Tinto subsidiary follows the end of mining from open-cut operations at the Ranger operation inside Kakadu National Park in 2012.

ERA has continued to produce from stockpiled material but it is gaining access to the world-scale Ranger 3 Deeps resource that will secure its long-term future.

Chief executive Andrea Sutton told ERA’s annual meeting in Darwin yesterday that the environmental impact statement would be submitted in the second half of this year. The company is targeting first production late next year and has a $120 million exploration decline and a $57m prefeasibility study into the development running concurrently. Uranium production at Ranger from stockpiled ore is suspended following the collapse of a leach tank in the processing plant in December.

The collapse released a slurry of ore and acid which was captured by the site’s containment system, with ERA saying that no material escaped into Kakadu.

The AGM was told that ERA’s board had approved a work plan to bring the processing plant to readiness for a restart. But a final clearance is required from the NT and federal governments.

Ms Sutton was not able to put a timeline on when that might happen, raising the prospect that ERA will have to secure uranium from other sources. The meeting was told that the quantities involved would depend on the timing of operations being restarted.

The company said it understood the “importance of restoring confidence in the safety and environmental performance of the Ranger mine”.