Rio Tinto-owned company in dispute with Federal Government over Kakadu uranium mine

The Ranger Uranium Mine in Kakadu is looming as the next great test of mining giant Rio Tinto, following the international outcry over the destruction of the 46,000-year-old Juukan caves in the Pilbara.

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A subsidiary of Rio Tinto is in dispute with the Federal Government over paying for scientific monitoring of the mine, which is on the edge of world heritage wetlands and will close in January 2021.

Under an agreement with the Federal Government, the site must be rehabilitated by 2026.

But Energy Resources Australia (ERA), the subsidiary that owns the mine, has confirmed to RN Breakfast it is still in mediation talks with the Commonwealth after not wanting to continue agreed scientific funding.

Gavin Mudd, who is on the mine’s independent technical consultation committee, told the ABC the funding dispute was over an independent monitoring agency for the mine, called the Supervising Scientists Branch.

More than 40 scientists have been partially funded by the Ranger Uranium Mine for decades and are charged with researching and understanding the environmental impact of the mine, which lies just outside the boundary of the Kakadu National Park.

Despite the mine being years away from being rehabilitated, ERA does not want to continue paying the $2.5 million in annual funding for the office.

“It’s really perplexing,” Dr Mudd said.

“I think there’s so many of us that really don’t know why this sort of decision has been made by head office in Rio and putting ERA in this position.”

ERA, with the financial support of Rio Tinto, has already spent more than half a billion dollars on rehabilitating the Ranger Uranium Mine site in the lead-up to its closure.

It is expected to spend an additional $1 billion on rehabilitating the environmentally and culturally significant site and Dr Mudd said the company was legally required to go through with it.


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