MAC: Mines and Communities

Australia: $200m sought to rehabilitate former Rum Jungle uranium mine

Published by MAC on 2014-11-02
Source: ABC News (2014-10-31)

What this article doesn't mention is that responsiblity for rehabilitation of Rum Jungle should surely be the responsility of Rio Tinto.

This first Australian uranium deposit was discovered by a local farmer, with his Aboriginal partner, then taken over by the CDA (a joint US-British procurement agency acting on behalf of both governments' "defence" agencies) which commissioned Conzinc of Australia to mine it from 1952.

Just over a decade later, Conzinc merged with Rio Tinto Australia to form CRA, majority-owned by what was then RTZ - now of course Rio Tinto.

No doubt then who should, morally speaking, be forking out this AuD$200 million

- Or indeed for the clean up of the operational Ranger uranium mine - which Rio Tinto has refused to do: Uranium mine leaks dominate Australian Rio Tinto AGM

$200m sought to rehabilitate former Rum Jungle uranium mine

By Joanna Crothers

ABC News

31 October 2014

The Department of Mines and Energy is seeking $200 million from the Federal Government to rehabilitate the former Rum Jungle mine site.

Attempts to rehabilitate the site, Australia's first uranium mine, stem back to the 1970s.

Scientists from the Department of Mines and Energy (DoE) have been drilling at the site over the past three weeks and analysing rock samples.

It is estimated that five million cubic metres of rock will need to be relocated or re-buried in two of the mine's deepest pits.

The process is likely to take three years and cost millions, scientists say.

"Everybody knows that Rum Jungle has been here for a long time, but that doesn't mean we should still sit on it for a long time," said DoE principal mining scientist Tania Laurencont.

"During stage one we set that cost at just over $100m but as you work through detailed designed it's certainly looking more in the range of $200 million," she said.

Uranium and copper were mined at the site from the 1950s until the site closed in 1971.

Waste rock at the site was buried but it started releasing acid and metals into the nearby East Finniss River.

Ms Laurencont said the rocks were larger and more oxidised than was thought.

East Finniss River pollution
PHOTO: The east branch of the East Finniss River shows a shoreline polluted with acid and metals. (Joanna Crothers)
The Department said a purpose-built facility was needed to store the waste, so there was no further damage to the environment.

Last year the Federal Government allocated $14 million for developing a rehabilitation plan, in addition to $8 million already spent on a preliminary plan.

Acidic drainage has plagued the site since it closed and the Finniss River is a significant fishing sport for Indigenous people and Territory anglers.

The recreational reserve now known as the Rum Jungle South Recreation Reserve was shut from 2010 until 2012 by the Northern Territory Government where some low-level radiation was detected.

The Department will present its plan of rehabilitation to the Treasury in March next year.

Other plans to rehabilitate include cleaning up other areas of the site and reintroducing vegetation onto the site.

 

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