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Final Report into Ranger Uranium Mine spill released

The final report into the leach tank spill at Ranger uranium mine in the NT late last year has been released, with mine owners, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), given a light rap on the knuckles.

The peer-reviewed report found that at the time of the tank failure, ERA’s management of process safety and its corporate governance did not meet expected standards. It also found that regulators need to pick up their game in order to identify non-compliance issues.

The seven key recommendations of the report are:

  • Recommendation 1:       It is recommended that Return to Service documentation be reviewed on a sampling basis as part of the ongoing monitoring program.
  • Recommendation 2:       ERA develop documented processes that ensures that responses to leaks and other losses of containment are thoroughly dealt with.
  • Recommendation 3:       Review the regulatory framework to ensure a more comprehensive and clear regulatory environment.
  • Recommendation 4:       The skills of regulators are developed to enable more effective regulation of process safety.
  • Recommendation 5:       The successful implementation of the cultural change element of the Action Plan is essential and must be a high priority for ERA.
  • Recommendation 6:       The cultural change element of the Action Plan is a priority area of focus for regulatory or monitoring oversight.
  • Recommendation 7:       The ERA Action Plan is monitored quarterly for two years from July 2014 to ensure it is effectively implemented.

Federal Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, released the findings of the report yesterday.

“With the Northern Territory Government, the Australian Government will undertake two years of quarterly monitoring ERA’s progress toward improved process safety,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“It is critical that ERA improves process safety practices at Ranger to ensure mining activities continue to have no impact on Kakadu National Park.”

Northern Territory Minister for Mines and Energy, Willem Westra van Holthe said that the incident caused no offsite environmental impacts and that the report will assist ERA in improving their practices.

“ERA must ensure day-to-day safety on site; the protection of workers and the environment is paramount,” Mr Westra van Holthe said.

The report outlines the incidents that lead to the failure of a leach tank at Ranger uranium mine at approximately 1am on 7 December 2013. The failure resulted in a spill of approximately 1,400 cubic meters of acidic slurry into the environment. The mine is surrounded by Kakadu National Park and at the time grave concerns were held for the future health of waterways, flora and fauna in the park.

Mr Macfarlane and Mr Westra van Holthe thanked the members of the Ranger Incident Taskforce for their efforts, in particular the contributions by the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation and the Northern Land Council.

A joint statement from the Northern Territory and Australian Governments, including the findings and recommendations of the independent expert’s final report, can be found here:www.industry.gov.au/RIEI-Findings-Recommendations

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