MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Re. Suspension of operations at Ranger Uranium Mine at Kakadu

Published by MAC on 2004-08-31

Re. Suspension of operations at Ranger Uranium Mine at Kakadu

Gundjheimi Aboriginal Corporation Media Statement

31 August 2004

The Mirarr Traditional Aboriginal Owners of the area of the Ranger uranium mine welcome the shutdown of the mine in order for miner Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) to implement a range of environmental protection and worker safety measures. Rio Tinto and ERA are now on notice; it is time for a complete overhaul of Ranger’s safety and environmental protection management. If the company fails to immediately lift its game the Commonwealth Government should revoke its uranium export licence. The shutdown comes after the Environment Minister last night tabled two reports on Ranger by the Commonwealth Supervising Scientist. The first report was on inadequate radiation clearance procedures at the Ranger mine, which resulted in earthmoving equipment leaving the mine contaminated with uranium ore. The second report was on the March 2004 contamination of the mine’s drinking water system and the uncontrolled release of contaminated water to Jabiru East and the local environment. The March contamination incident saw workers exposed to water with uranium levels four hundred times the Australian Drinking Water Standard.

The Mirarr people have long held and publicly expressed concerns at inadequate management practices at Ranger. These concerns have been vindicated by the findings of the Supervising Scientist.

The Supervising Scientist’s report found the following (this list is by no means exhaustive) in relation to the management of Ranger by ERA, a Rio Tinto controlled company: - - deficient radiation protection procedures; - insufficient training in radiation protection and water management; - an inadequate radiation protection culture; - inadequate resources allocated to radiation protection; - the lack of a workplace safety system; - ongoing process plant problems and related OHS issues; - the need for counselling, neurotoxicological testing and independent review of such testing.

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation now calls on the Federal Government to work with the Northern Territory Government and ERA to immediately review the findings of the October 2003 Senate report into environmental regulation at Ranger.

The Corporation further calls on miner ERA and the Commonwealth and Northern Territory regulators to acknowledge the long-held concerns of the Mirarr Traditional Owners and respect their expertise in land management by working with the Gundjeihmi Corporation and the Northern Land Council to implement relevant recommendations of this inquiry.

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