Kakadu Uranium Miner in Hot Water

March 24, 2004

Environment groups are calling for urgent government action following a radiation incident that today shutdown Energy Resources of Australia’s controversial Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu.

ERA has confirmed that the mines water supply has been contaminated following workers complaining of skin irritation after showering at this mornings shift change.

It is believed that the uranium concentrations in the water peaked at around 400 times the Australian drinking quality standard of 20 ppb (parts per billion).

ERA has responded to the latest incident by removing workers from the mine and shutting down the mine and process plant for an unspecified period.

“This contamination event is the latest in a history of spills, leaks and breakdowns at Ranger,” said ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney. “ The mine is getting old, the infrastructure is getting worn and the miners and regulators are getting complacent.”

Ranger was the focus of detailed scrutiny from a Senate Inquiry in October 2003 that found a persistent “pattern of underperformance and non-compliance” and described the regulation of the site as “flawed, confusing and inadequate”.

To date ERA, the Federal government and the NT government have all failed to respond to the findings of this Inquiry and many key recommendations aimed at reducing the environmental and social impacts of mining have not been implemented.

“We are talking about a uranium mine inside our largest national park, said ECNT coordinator Peter Robertson. “This is not a place to cut corners – today’s incident is further proof of the need to act to protect the people and environment of Kakadu.”

The Ranger mine has been plagued with problems since it opened in 1981 with over 120 incidents and spills documented by environment groups.

“In July 1983 errors in the processing plant led to a contamination pathway similar to today’s,” said FoE spokesperson Loretta O’Brien. “Ranger is not learning from its many mistakes and the uranium industry regulators are failing to do their job.”

Further information or comment:
Loretta O’Brien
FoE
Mob: 0418 178 053

Dave Sweeney
ACF
Mob: 0408 317 812

Peter Robertson
ECNT
Mob: 0409 089 020