ACF statement on Energy Resources of Australia’s 2020 annual general meeting.
As Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), the operator of the deeply contested Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu, holds its 2020 annual meeting in Perth today the spotlight is on Ranger’s looming closure after four decades of imposed uranium mining and milling.
In January 2021 all mineral processing at Ranger must end. This will leave ERA – and parent company Rio Tinto – with a heavily impacted site that requires extensive rehabilitation.
The mine site is surrounded by the dual World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park – Australia’s largest national park. Rehabilitation of the Ranger mine will be complex and costly.
It must meet the Mirarr Traditional Owners’ – and wider community – expectations as well as the mining company’s legal obligation to restore the site to a standard where it can be incorporated into the Kakadu World Heritage area.
Australia has a long history of sub-standard mine closure and rehabilitation in the uranium and wider mining sector. There is a clear and pressing need for a better approach and outcome at Ranger.
The challenge is how to rehabilitate the heavily affected mine site and larger Ranger Project Area in a way that reduces adverse impacts and provides confidence that the living and peopled landscape of Kakadu is well protected, now and into the future.
Ranger is aiming for a rehabilitation standard never previously attempted or achieved. This has drawn national and international attention and puts increased pressure on the Australian and Northern Territory governments, ERA and Rio Tinto to get this right. Recent squabbles between ERA and the federal government over costs have no place – what is needed is a clear commitment and capacity from all parties for the best possible outcome.
The comprehensive and credible clean up of Ranger is of critical importance to Rio Tinto’s international reputation as a responsible corporate citizen, and to Rio’s wider social license to operate.
More importantly, it is also of critical importance to the long term environmental, cultural and public health of Kakadu and its peoples.