West Australian: Second blow for Rio with Namibia mine strife

Publish Date:
11th December 2013

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By Peter Klinger

Stung by the Federal Government’s forced closure of the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory after a slurry leak, Rio Tinto’s uranium woes have worsened amid reports out of Namibia that its Rossing mine is  also under attack from regulators.
Namibian press reports say that milling operations at Rossing have been halted by authorities following  detection of a leak at one of the mine’s leach tanks.
Ranger is owned by Rio subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia. Rossing is directly owned by Rio.
“We understand that each company has commissioned a full investigation into these incidents to determine the cause and contributing factors,” a Rio spokesman said last night.
“Rio has offered its full support. It is important that these investigations run their full course to identify what may have caused or contributed to the incident.”
The Federal Government has told ERA it cannot resume processing uranium until regulators are satisfied with the integrity of the Ranger mine site at Kakadu following a massive leak of toxic slurry. Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane on Monday suspended processing operations at Ranger after a leach tank with a 1.5 million litre capacity burst and spilled out a radioactive and acidic slurry at the weekend.
It is unclear how full the leach tank was at the time of the leak.
A weak uranium price is challenging the viability of most uranium mines in the world. Rio’s added woes with Rossing and Ranger are likely to spark talk it may decide to sell out of uranium. ERA shares continued their dive yesterday, falling a further 11.5 per cent to $1. The shares fell almost 13 per cent on Monday.