Herald Sun: Spill puts heat on Kakadu
8th December 2013
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TRADITIONAL owners have threatened to banish uranium miners from Kakadu National Park after what they described as "a major nuclear accident" at the Ranger mine yesterday morning.
It is understood up to 1.5 million litres of radioactive slurry a mixture of mud, water, uranium ore and acid
spilled when a leaching tank split open.
The mine operator, Energy Resources of Australia, denied reports of an explosion, but the tank burst with such force a nearby crane was toppled and twisted and other infrastructure was damaged. Workers were
evacuated and production could close for months.
ERA had been involved intense negotiations with the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the local Mirarr people, about expanding production to a new area that would greatly extend the life of the resource.
Gundjeihmi chief executive officer Justin O'Brien said yesterday the traditional owners could not consider any further mining at this time. "This is nothing but a hillbilly operation, run by a hillbilly miner with hillbilly
regulators," Mr O'Brien said.
"Based on the woefully inadequate government response to the previous incident, we have no confidence that this will be taken seriouslyenough."
ERA general manager of operations Tim Eckersley said yesterday the spill was contained on site and there was no environmental impact. Workers were evacuated about 1am when a hole was discovered in the leaching tank. The tank then split, spilling the radioactive slurry.
Environmental groups yesterday called for the mine to be shut. "The time for mining a problematic and
polluting mineral in a World Heritage area is over," Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Dave Sweeney said.