Future of Ranger uranium mine hangs in the balance

Ranger uranium mine
Ranger uranium mine

Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) said it is nearing a decision on Australia’s longest continually operating uranium mine in the Northern Territory, Ranger uranium mine.

Rio Tinto-controlled ERA said it would inform the market this quarter of the outcome of the strategic review, which it kicked off in October after being advised by traditional owners they oppose an extension of production at the mine near Kakadu.

The Mirarr traditional owners refused to back the miner’s bid to extend its mining and processing permits beyond the current expiry date of January 2021.

ERA, which is 68-per-cent-owned by Rio, warned then it may have to write down its assets as a result, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald.

The latest update came as ERA reported production of 669 tonnes of uranium oxide in the December quarter, 12 per cent more than in the same period in 2014. Total production for 2015 was 2005 tonnes, 72 per cent higher than the 1165 tonnes produced the previous year.

ERA put the increase in production down to a higher grade of material and an increase in the ore milled.

The Mirarr traditional owners signalled last July they would not agree to an expansion of the Ranger project, which also failed to win support from Rio the previous month.

The expansion would involve an underground mine, which ERA had been exploring through its Ranger 3 Deeps project, which has since been placed on “care and maintenance”.

Rio said last June it would not support further mining at Ranger, and wanted instead to move to rehabilitation of the site, which would be integrated back into the Kakadu national park.