Closing Ranger Protecting Kakadu

In January 2021, following four decades of contested uranium mining and milling, operations at the Ranger uranium mine will end, leaving a heavily impacted site that requires extensive rehabilitation. Plans for cleaning up the site of the Ranger uranium mine, and incorporating it into Australia’s largest national park, Kakadu – are being hampered by an unrealistic five-year rehabilitation time frame, uncertainty over funding and fears about a tailings dam leakingtoxic contaminants into the surrounding national park.

Co-author Dr Rebecca Lawrence from the University of Sydney said uncertainty about the adequacy of rehabilitation financing – especially for site monitoring and mitigation works – is problematic.

“Rio Tinto has been called out for its failure to act responsibly at Juukan Gorge; as the main shareholder in the Ranger operation there is a risk Rio will fail at Kakadu if it does not get this rehabilitation right and secure financing for perpetual care and maintenance of the site.

“There is a requirement to isolate mining tailings for 10,000 years, but how can that be done without any funds earmarked for monitoring or post-closure management?”

Dave Sweeney from the Australian Conservation Foundation said long after the mining companies have packed up and gone, managing the waste would remain a huge challenge.

“The community and environment of Kakadu need certainty and a comprehensive clean up,” he said.

“This work is a key test of the commitment and capacity of Rio Tinto, as well as the Northern Territory and federal governments.”

Read more on ACF