Territory Stories

The Northern Territory news Sat 22 Dec 2012



The Northern Territory news Sat 22 Dec 2012

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NT news


The Northern Territory news; NewspaperNT




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Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin

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Nationwide News Pty. Limited

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Copyright. Made available by the publisher under licence.

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Nationwide News Pty. Limited



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22 NT NEWS. Saturday, December 22, 2012. www.ntnews.com.au SATURDAY EXTRA l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l ntnews.com.au Mine wastes away The uranium has stopped flowing from themine at Ranger, but where that leaves the future of the town of Jabiru and the many residents who depend on it is still to be decided, writesAlison Bevege ERA chief executive Rob Atkinson at East Arm as the brine evaporators arrive for the two-day haul to Jabiru Picture: Brad Fleet ContinuedPage 24 O N THE evening of November 23 the last truckload of ore came out of Ranger. Surrounded by Kakadu National Park, the fourthbiggest uranium mine in the world once produced 10 per cent of global supply and 1 per cent of the planets electricity. Since 1980 the mine has produced more than 100,000 tonnes of uranium oxide. The nearby mining town of Jabiru, 220km east of Darwin, barely noticed the historic moment. No jobs were immediately lost except for 12 members of the drill and blast team who are being redeployed through the vast empire of operator Energy Resources of Australias parent company Rio Tinto. The truck drivers are still driving but in the opposite direction taking the waste rock back down the pit to fill it up. There will be no waste dumps left on the surface once the rehabilitation is finished, said Alan Tietzel, ERAs chief adviser for communities. There will be no reminders of mining . . . no big hole left in the ground. But for the tiny town of 1100 people that lies 220km east of Darwin, and the nearby Aboriginal settlements in Kakadu, that day brought the tread of doom. There is still maintenance and environmental work to do at Ranger until 2021, but if the Mirarr traditional owners dont let ERA mine the new Ranger 3 Deeps deposit or the Jabiluka resource down the road then it is the beginning of the end for Jabiru. The mine powers the town which houses most of its 591 employees and their families. And it provides millions of dollars in royalties for the local Aboriginal people. In the year to June 2008 the Gundjeihmi Corporation which represents the Mirarr traditional owners on whose land the mine sits received $4.6 million in royalties. That rose to $7.8 million in 2009. In 2010 it was $7.6 million, for 2011 it was $4.8 million and in 2012, $5.8 million. Not bad for an organisation which the 2012 directors report listed as having only 29 members. The corporation administers the money for about 228 formal Mirarr recipients. It provides housing, substance abuse programs, a boarding house for students and a youth centre along with direct payments. It also extends its help to hundreds of other Aboriginal families in the region who use the services it provides. But the size of the payments is going down. And when ERA runs out of uranium to sell, the royalties will dwindle to nothing. It is the Mirarr people who hold the key to the survival of the town of Jabiru and to the continued royalty streams. Legally the negotiations for new mining would take place through the Northern Land Council. But practically it is the Mirarr mouthpiece, Gundjeihmi, that has the power to let ERA conduct further mining on the Ranger lease at the Ranger 3 Deeps ore discovery and the nearby Jabiluka deposit one of the worlds richest deposits containing 73,940 tonnes of uranium oxide. But the Mirarr, through Gundjeihmi, have so far opposed any future development. In October Gundjeihmi stated all mining activity must cease by 2021. The executive officer, Justin OBrien, would not go on record to discuss the outlook for the future. But on Wednesday he released a media statement on behalf of Gundjeihmi to say the main priority was not the reduced income but the managing of tailings and contaminated water on the site. The attention of the Mirarr traditional owners is now on addressing the legacy of 32 years of mining, the release stated. This has involved . . . the creation of over 40 million cubic metres of highly toxic tailings and tens of billions of litres of contaminated water. The focus must be on the longterm management of that legacy. The Mirarr are worried about environmental damage to their land, Gundjeihmi states. According to media reports, Ranger has had more than 150 spills, leaks and licence breaches since it opened. In 2009 a dam reportedly collapsed, spilling six million litres of radioactive water into creeks that flow into Kakadu. But ERA chief executive Rob Atkinson has said claims the company had affected Kakadu were unproven. We deal with facts, nothing apart from facts and also science, he said. He pointed to annual reports by the independent Office of the Supervising Scientist.