Radioactive water threatens Kakadu  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

The Age has a report on the impact of heavy rains on the Ranger uranium min in the Northern Territory - Radioactive water threatens Kakadu.

Radioactive water is in danger of spilling into an Aboriginal community and Kakadu's World Heritage-listed wetlands if record rainfalls continue to deluge the vast Ranger uranium mine.

Mine management faces drastic action to avert an environmental disaster and avoid costly delays that could stall high-grade ore extraction for months or even years.

Rio Tinto-controlled Energy Resources of Australia relies on the Ranger mine, 230 kilometres south-east of Darwin, to supply 10 per cent of the world's uranium market, including Japan's stricken Fukushima plant.

ERA will be forced to pump more than 10 billion litres of highly contaminated water from an almost overflowing dam into its operating open cut mine, known as Pit 3, if the Kakadu area receives about 100 millimetres more rain.

This level of rainfall is likely with three weeks of the Top End's wet season still remaining.

The company conceded this week it will not be able to resume production in the pit until the end of July at the earliest and that its "ultimate contingency" to protect the environment is to transfer water from the tailings dam.

But Pit 3 - the only place available to put the water - already contains 3.6 billion litres of water that is sitting above high grade ore deposits.

If forced to pump water containing heavy metals and radioactive material from the tailings dam into the pit, ERA would then have to treat all of the water there as highly contaminated.

Sources at the mine say its treatment plants do not have anywhere near the capacity to solve existing water management problems despite recent upgrading of equipment.

For 30 years about 100,000 litres of contaminated water a day has been leaking from the tailings dam into fissures beneath Kakadu but an 18-month review completed last year failed to establish where the water has gone or whether it will damage the environment.

1 comments

I had some links and personal commentary about this in The Least Fortunate Island about half way down.

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