Publish Date: 4th August 2011
Today’s announcement by Kakadu uranium miner and Rio Tinto subsidiary Energy
Resources of Australia (ERA) that it will scrap its proposed acid heap leaching plant has
been welcomed by Mirarr traditional Aboriginal owners. The Mirarr people, represented by
the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, have congratulated ERA, which operates the Ranger
Uranium Mine, for heeding widespread stakeholder opposition to the controversial proposal
and has called for a redoubling of effort to conclude the renegotiation of the Ranger mine
“The company has listened to stakeholders and opted against the dangerous and untested
use of acid leaching of uranium in a sensitive tropical environment. It is a rational decision
that we welcome,” said the executive officer of the Gundjeihmi Corporation, Justin O’Brien.
“We also welcome ERA’s commitment to increase the rehabilitation provision in its financial
statements from $314M to $550M. This, too, is a welcome sign that the company has
heeded our long-standing concern at the lack of active focus on rehabilitation,” he added.
Mr O’Brien stressed that Rio Tinto and ERA must now address the historical inequities that
underpin the Ranger operation by concluding the now 13-year renegotiation of the Ranger
“Thirty-three years ago the Australian Government imposed an agreement on the Mirarr
traditional owners for a mining operation that they outright opposed. To get around Mirarr
opposition the government, which then owned 50% of the Ranger mine, singled out the
Mirarr People by legislating away their veto rights at Ranger and forcing upon them an
unpopular and patently insufficient mining agreement.
“For the Ranger operation to have any legitimacy, for ERA and Rio Tinto to act in a manner
consistent with their internationally stated goals of sustainability and community relations, the
Ranger agreement must now be speedily completed,” Mr O’Brien said.
The authority to operate the Ranger mine, granted under the Commonwealth’s defence
powers under the Atomic Energy Act, expires in 2026. Mining and milling must cease by
January 2021 and rehabilitation by January 2026.