MAC: Mines and Communities

Australian 'uranium mine fire' in Kakadu National Park

Published by MAC on 2015-10-11
Source: ABC News, Mining.com, NT News (2015-10-09)

NT uranium mine fire: Traditional owners call on mine operator to take responsibility for blaze

ABC Premium News (Australia)

7 October 2015

Traditional owners are calling on the operator of the Ranger Uranium Mine to take responsibility for a fire that is threatening important cultural sites in Kakadu National Park.

They are also warning if the out-of-control fire spreads into Kakadu's escarpment country, it will be too difficult to contain.

Parks Australia said the blaze started when the mine's operator, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), began weed management burning which then spread into Kakadu.

Justin O'Brien from the Gunjeihmi Corporation, which represents the area's traditional owners, said ERA should fund efforts to put out the fire.

"I mean there's an argument to say they should be prosecuted for what they've done, this is the second year in a row that they've done this, It's almost a replica of last year," he said.

"They are not learning so they need to be taught about the sensitive environment which they're operating in."

Mr O'Brien said the fire was close to escarpment country, where it would be very difficult to put out.

"If this fire gets into the escarpment, there's no water in there," he said

"You can't do suppression from the air, you cannot get boots on the ground in that country, it's too rugged.

"All you can do is wait for it to put itself out, that's not acceptable."

ERA said it notified Parks Australia about the controlled burn and was not instructed to stop the fire from going ahead.

Kakadu rangers are due to fly over Kakadu this morning to assess the fire.

Mr O'Brien said hundreds of rock art galleries, plants and animals in Radon Springs are threatened by the fire.

One of Kakadu National Park's most significant cultural sites, Nourlangie Rock, featuring Indigenous rock art showing early contact with Europeans, as well as other art up to 50,000 years old, has been closed to tourists.


NT uranium mine fire: ERA to pay for water bombing of fire threatening rock art and sacred sites in Kakadu

ABC News

7 October 2015

Traditional owners are calling on the operator of the Ranger Uranium Mine to take responsibility for a fire that is threatening important cultural sites in Kakadu National Park.

They are also warning if the out-of-control fire spreads into Kakadu's escarpment country, it will be too difficult to contain.

Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), the operator of the mine, has told the ABC it will pay for water bombing the fire.

Parks Australia said the blaze started when ERA began weed management burning which then spread into Kakadu.

Justin O'Brien from the Gunjeihmi Corporation, which represents the area's traditional owners, said ERA should fund efforts to put out the fire.

"I mean there's an argument to say they should be prosecuted for what they've done, this is the second year in a row that they've done this, It's almost a replica of last year," he said.

"They are not learning so they need to be taught about the sensitive environment which they're operating in."

Mr O'Brien said the fire was close to escarpment country, where it would be very difficult to put out.

"If this fire gets into the escarpment, there's no water in there," he said

"You can't do suppression from the air, you cannot get boots on the ground in that country, it's too rugged.

"All you can do is wait for it to put itself out, that's not acceptable."

Wind changed direction, picked up: ERA

In a statement to the ABC, ERA said it would commit to "funding the aerial water bombing operations to put the fire out".

It said it undertook a "planned weed management burn" on 1 October in the Ranger Project Area.

"ERA followed protocols in accordance with ERA's internal procedures to notify Parks the day before the planned burn on the Ranger Project Area," the statement said.

ERA said there was "no fire ban in place for the area where the burn took place or the West Arnhem region.
Ancient Aboriginal rock art at Nourlangie in the Kakadu National Park

"The burn off began on Thursday under normal weather conditions at 7:45am and was completed at 11:00am."

ERA said it had been informed the predicted wind speed for the morning period during the burn "was approximately 24kph".

"Approximately an hour later, when ERA's Emergency Service Officers were monitoring the burn area, the wind direction changed suddenly from east-south-east to north-west and increased in speed from approximately 16kph to approximately 54kph."

ERA said the gust "reignited embers on the west side of the burn area and carried them across the containment line to outside of the Ranger Project Area".

An hour later, the wind changed direction to east-south-east and the fire proceeded south on the lease, ERA said.

The company said it was "continuing to communicate with Parks" regarding the fire and is carrying out an internal investigation in relation to it.

"ERA is committed to rehabilitating the Ranger Mine Site and takes its responsibilities seriously," the statement said.

Fire burning on multiple fronts

In an update, NT Parks said the blaze was burning on "multiple fire fronts".

"The fire headed into the stone country is being controlled. Backburning in and around at Nourlangie Rock precinct has been undertaken to try and safeguard environmentally important areas. The popular visitor site remains closed for public safety but is not under immediate threat.

"We mobilised a helicopter again today to conduct aerial water bombing and review the situation. There are two ground crews working to contain fires on the ground.

"Currently we are experiencing relatively still conditions on park but winds are picking up."

Dave Sweeney from the Australian Conservation Foundation said it was not the first time ERA has made bad decisions around fire management.

"Fires are a fact of life but poor management unfortunately seems to be a fact of ERA's life.

"They lit a fire that was too late and too hot. Rather than learn from that mistake, they've repeated it again this year."

Despite ground and aerial fire management, the fire is continuing to burn in culturally and environmentally sensitive areas within Kakadu's floodplain and stone country. The fire has burnt an estimated 200 square kilometres.


Controlled Ranger Mine fire is now a conflagaration

Michael Allan McCrae

Mining.com

6 October 2015

A controlled burn that was set to manage weeds near Energy Resource Australia's Ranger Mine (ASX:ERA) in the Northern Territories has become an out of control fire threatening habitat in the Kakadu National Park and ancient Aboriginal art sites.

The controlled burn, which the company claims was permitted by authorities, was started last week. However, the fire escaped its perimeters and entered the adjoining park.

Kakadu National Park has seen controlled burns for thousands of years to flush out prey or prevent larger, more devastating fires. Vegetation has adapted to fire.

The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, a group that manages the disbursement of funds from the Ranger Mine to local aboriginal groups, is still critical of the handling of the blaze.

"ERA's failure to contain this fire demonstrates that nature does not discriminate between a uranium mining lease and a world heritage listed national park," said the group on its Facebook page.

"This is one continuous landscape and this situation has huge implications for the future rehabilitation of the mine site."

A park spokesperson told ABC News that the fire could threaten culturally significant areas. Northern Territories Environment Minister, Gary Higgins, is being briefed on the fire.

Kakadu National Park is located 171 KM southeast of Darwin. The Ranger Mine is surrounded by the park.

Relations between aboriginal groups and the mine have been fraught. A million dollar payment from mine owners, who were seeking more uranium concessions, to aboriginal groups was spurred in 2013. The GAC also severly critized an acid spill at the company during the same year.


Kakadu National Park fires extinguished a week after a burn-off at Ranger uranium mine went wrong

Katina Vangopoulos

Northern Territories News

9 October 2015

Kakadu National Park was under threat by a fire that spread from a burn-off at Ranger uranium mine.

FIRES burning across part of Kakadu National Park have been extinguished one week after a burn-off at Ranger uranium mine spread into the World Heritage-listed area.

Kakadu National Park, Jitbilu Ranger Group and ranger operator Energy Resources Australia had ground and aerial crews fighting numerous fires across Gubara, Mt Brockman and Nourlangie yesterday.

By 5pm a Parks Australia spokeswoman confirmed that “so long as the weather remains stable, all fires have now been extinguished”.

“If there is any doubt we will go up again in the morning,” she said.

Winds are still light and variable, but expected to remain under 20 kilometres per hour today.

ERA had a ground crew and water bombing chopper in operation to assist with fires since the spread worsened earlier this week.

A spokeswoman told the NT News that ERA also committed to covering the cost of the choppers that Parks Australia used to extinguish the fires.

ERA conducted weed management burning within the Ranger site on October 1 when there was no fire ban in place for the area affected or the West Arnhem region.

The fire claimed 200sq km of culturally sensitive ground when the wind direction changed and sped up rapidly, reigniting embers and carrying them across the containment line.

ERA is carrying out an internal investigation.

Home | About Us | Companies | Countries | Minerals | Contact Us
© Mines and Communities 2013. Web site by Zippy Info