Environment groups welcome NT moves to prosecute Kakadu uranium miner

May 19, 2004

Environment groups have welcomed today’s formal recommendation to prosecute the mining company Energy Resources of Australia over a recent radiation scare at the controversial Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu.

The recommendation is part of the findings of an investigation by the Northern Territory Government’s mines department into a license breach in March. At the time workers drank and showered in water with uranium levels 400 times higher than the maximum Australian safety standard.

The report, which has not yet been made publicly available, has now been referred to the NT Department of Justice for urgent consideration and a detailed response on prosecution options is expected in the next few weeks.

“The fact that there will be legal redress for wrong doing will be good news for the affected workers, the Mirarr traditional owners and all concerned about the protection of Kakadu,” said ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney.

“It is an important step in making ERA accountable and responsible for their leaking and underperforming mine and vindicates the concerns and actions of those working to highlight the need for an improved and effective regulatory system at Ranger.”

The Ranger mine is majority owned by the global mining group Rio Tinto and has a troubled history with over 120 leaks, spills and breaches since it opened in 1981.

Environment groups are highly critical of the regulatory system at Ranger, which was described in a Senate report last year as “flawed, confusing and inadequate.”

The Senate report also spoke of a persistent “pattern of underperformance and non-compliance” and made a series of common sense recommendations to reduce the impacts and contamination risk at Ranger. To date the federal government has failed to formally respond to the report or to implement any of these recommendations.

“Ranger has been leaking for years but lazy governments and complacent regulators have failed to prosecute,” said Friends of the Earth campaigner Loretta O’Brien.

“It is now time to get serious about protecting the cultural and natural values of Australia’s biggest National Park. and hopefully this move will help address some of the serious and unresolved environmental, safety and process issues at Ranger.”

For comment:

Loretta O’Brien on
Mob: 0418 178 053

Dave Sweeney on
Mob: 0408 317 812