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The Australian Conservation Foundation has urged global miner Rio Tinto to use the company’s annual meeting in Perth today to address serious concerns about contamination threats facing people and the environment in Kakadu National Park.
Rio Tinto is the majority owner of Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), the operator of the troubled Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu. Mining and mineral processing operations at Ranger are currently suspended because of ERA’s inability to control and quarantine large volumes of contaminated water at the controversial site.
ERA’s performance has been the focus of sustained criticism from environmental and public health groups and Traditional Owners. Earlier this week Northern Land Council CEO Kim Hill said ERA’s “poor mining practice has come at the cost of basic environmental protection and simple common sense”.
“Rio Tinto is the parent, ERA is the out of control teenager and Kakadu is the collateral damage,” said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney.
“The Rio Tinto board needs to choose between the objectives of one renegade business and that of the whole company.
“Rio should show leadership and move to stop the damage to both its reputation and Kakadu’s World Heritage listed wetlands.”
Ranger has a long history of accidents and incidents. ERA appears unable to resolve the daily leakage of 100,000–150,000 litres of contaminated liquid from its tailings dam.
ERA’s plan to expand operations at the site through a combination of underground mining and the use of a controversial acid based leaching process has raised new concerns. A recent ACF report into the leaching proposal identified increased and serious environmental threats to Kakadu.
“Rather than give ERA a blank cheque for further contamination of Kakadu, the Rio Tinto board needs to chart a course towards the early closure and clean-up of the Ranger site,” Dave Sweeney said.