The Kakadu National Park is at imminent risk of contamination and long term damage unless the clean-up of the Ranger uranium mine isn’t better managed.
The Unfinished Business report, co-authored by the Sydney Environment Institute and the University of Sydney, has identified data deficiencies, lack of transparency around governance frameworks and uncertainty of future financing as the key issues surrounding the clean-up.
Mine operator Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) and parent company Rio Tinto are required to clean up the site to a standard suitable for inclusion in the surrounding Kakadu National Park, dual-listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
“No mine in the world has ever successfully achieved this standard of clean up,” said report co-author Dr Rebecca Lawrence from SEI.
“Rehabilitating what is essentially a toxic waste dump is no easy task. Rio Tinto faces a complex and costly rehabilitation job.
“The challenge is not to simply scrape rocks into holes and plant trees, it is to make sure mine tailings, radioactive slurry and toxic byproducts of mining are isolated from the surrounding environment for 10,000 years.
The report examines how ERA and Rio Tinto intend to deliver on the federal government’s requirement to protect the Kakadu environment by isolating any tailings and making sure contaminants do not result in any detrimental environmental impacts for at least 10,000 years.
“Long after the miners have gone this waste remains a direct human and environmental challenge,” said report co-author Dave Sweeney from ACF.