Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) – a subsidiary of mining giant Rio Tinto – shut down production at its Ranger uranium mine in January last year after 40 years of operation.
It has since been working to return the mine site to its original state, but the cleanup effort has become increasingly expensive and drawn out. In February ERA said the rehabilitation could cost up to AUD1.2bn (€816m $824m) more than expected and take two years longer than initially planned.
The rehabilitation was originally estimated at AUD973m, but in a statement to the Australian stock exchange in February, ERA revised costs to be approximately between AUD1.6bn and AUD2.2bn.
The company’s current lease stipulates it must complete the rehabilitation and be off the mine site by 2026, a condition legislated by the Atomic Energy Act 1953.
On Thursday (8 September), federal resources minister Madeleine King introduced a bill to parliament to amend that legislation to let government officials oversee the cleanup beyond 2026, and to ensure ERA completes the job.
She said the bill would also enable the site to be closed down in stages, so areas that had been rehabilitated could be handed back to Aboriginal landowners.
In a statement, an ERA spokeswoman said the amendment allowed the company “sufficient time” to rehabilitate the mine to a standard “that will establish an environment similar to the adjacent Kakadu National Park”.
“ERA reaffirms its commitment to the successful completion of the rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area,” the spokeswoman said.