AAP: Breach sparks concern at Kakadu mine

Publish Date:
20th November 2013

Download PDF of AAP story published in Koori Mail
IT would be a case of good luck rather than good management, if it turns out there is no radiation contamination due to an unauthorised vehicle leaving the Ranger uranium site in Kakadu an environment group says.

And the breach has the traditional owners of the area rethinking their attitude to an expansion of the mine.

About midnight on Sunday, November 3, a controlled vehicle used in the most contaminated parts of the Rio Tinto -owned Ranger mine left the site without permission. It was seen by security guards who  retrieved it, and an initial inspection found it to be free of contamination, mine operator Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) said.

But the breach was notrevealed until Thursday, November 7, to the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC), which represents the Mirarr traditional owners of the Ranger project area and much of the surrounding park.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) wrote to the NT Department of Mines and Energy calling for an urgent review of ERA's 'failure to ensure compliance withoperational requirements'.
"On a process level, the system didn't work," ACF spokesman Dave Sweeney said "If it turns out, and I hope it does, that there hasn't been any radiological exposure, then that's just by good luck and not by good management."

Mr Sweeney says there have been more than 200 incidents, breaches and leaks at the site. "There's a consistent pattern of underperformance, and this is significant because it could have been a major  radiation issue," he said.

An ERA spokesman said the breach was a police matter and would not comment further. ERA has  submitted plans to mine a 34,000 tonne underground deposit at the site, called Ranger 3 Deeps, but has
given an undertaking to the traditional owners not to mine without their approval, which GAC chief  executive Justin O'Brien said may now be in question.

"This failure ... raises serious questions as to the viability of Ranger's R3D proposal and will certainly
be factored into our thinking," h said. "In our view, this incident constitutes a breach of the company's mining authorisation. "We are calling on the NT and federal governments to commence an immediate
investigation into how it occurred and the security implications it raises." -AAP