NT News: Ranger dances at sound of drums

Publish Date:
21st November 2013

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FOUR uranium barrels believed to be from the Territory’s Ranger Uranium Mine have been found in bushland in Darwin’s rural area—but no one seems to know how they got there.
The mystery surrounding the barrels follows another breach this month with the unauthorised removal of a mine vehicle used in the controlled and contaminated area of the Ranger Mine.
Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) spokesman Dan Hall said a team had been sent to collect the  empty steel drums from Noonamah on Monday but he stopped short of saying they belonged to the mine, more than 100km away in Kakadu National Park.
He instead said they ‘‘were of a type that were once used by Ranger mine’’. Mr Hall said follow-up  inspections confirmed no radioactive material was detected.
‘‘ERA has in place strict controls over the movement and tracking of drums containing export ready product,’’ he said.
But Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation’s chief executive officer Justin O’Brien said this was not good enough. He said the Federal Government needed to step in and ensure the matter was taken seriously.
Mr O’Brien said the Commonwealth Office of the Supervising Scientist (OSS) — which has jurisdiction for
environmental monitoring at the site — had been ‘‘dismissive and woefully inadequate’’.
‘‘There are significant questions of public health to be answered here,’’ he said.
‘‘The question is about the accountability of these drums and that, within a week of another serious breach of radiation management, we have four drums rolling around in the bush.’’
Federal Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane said yesterday the NT Department of Health and Families had
identified four drums of ‘‘unknown’’ origin and the incident was being investigated.
The OSS confirmed it was pursuing investigations into both incidents. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and Environment Centre of the NT yesterday also condemned the incident, calling
for a full, public and independent review of the operations and impacts of Ranger.
The NT Branch of the Public Health Association of Australia has also called for a public inquiry.
‘‘Uranium mining, with its risks to public health and safety and long-term environmental contamination must be subject of greater Federal Government scrutiny,’’ ACF spokesman Dav Sweeney said. ‘‘These drums are literally warning drums about the serious regulatory problems at Ranger and their description
matches ERA’s assurances— empty, weathered and fire damaged.’’
The NT Government said it would consider an inquiry after looking into the correspondence.