Documents showing inspections at Ranger uranium mine go missing

Xavier La Canna

On Thursday giving Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) was given the green light to recommence processing operations at Ranger after a one-million litre radio-active spill last year sparked a shut-down.

ERA claimed there had been no environmental damage was caused by the spill, but processing was suspended in the wake of the incident.

It is understood processing operations will recommence immediately following the decision by the federal and NT governments.

But 19 years after a 12,000 litre diesel spill at the site caused bird deaths, the review found problems with the documentation of diesel tank inspections.

"Diesel Tanks A and B are missing documentation relating to their one-monthly routine inspections and five-yearly external inspections," the review found.

It said that in the future the inspection documents would be scanned and put into an information management system.

The failure would not affect the return to service though, the report said, and a 10-yearly inspection report had been done.

A joint statement from Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and NT Mines Minister Willem Westra van Holthe said the report had recommended that ERA be given approval to commence the implementation of the company's restart plan.

"This decision follows an intensive investigation of the leach tank circuit and other critical infrastructure by independent experts Noetic Risk Solution and HRL Technology," the statement said.

Dave Sweeney from the Australian Conservation Foundation said he was disappointed Ranger was allowed to recommence processing even though a report into the cause of the failure had not been publicly tabled.

Mr Sweeney said the government had a well-worn path of refusing to comment when incidents happened at Ranger because it could jeopardize the independence of inquiries, then refusing to release the full findings of reports because it was "commercial in confidence".

Ranger, which began production in 1981, is one of the world's largest uranium mines and is located within the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park.


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