Tuesday 11th May
New dollars to help fix old damage: federal budget brings good news for uranium mine clean up
Environment groups have welcomed the federal budget commitment to support long overdue rehabilitation work at the former Rum Jungle uranium mine south of Darwin.
While funding details have not been published for commercial reasons the Budget statement confirms the allocation is to facilitate “the site’s full rehabilitation”. The heavily impacted site was established and operated by the Commonwealth and the Rio Tinto group between 1953 and 1971.
Earlier failed clean up attempts have left continuing impacts and legacies, including radioactive waste, acid mine drainage and severe contamination of the East Finniss River.
A new joint NT-federal government rehabilitation plan has been developed for the site and the recent federal funding means there is far greater certainty that this work will now take place.
“The Rum Jungle mine was a mistake that became a massive mess and this renewed clean up capacity is very welcome news,” said ECNT co- director Shar Molloy.
“The challenge is complex but will help ensure that the land can finally be handed back to Traditional Owners, the Kungarakan and Warai peoples.
“It also means reduced risks to the nearby and popular Litchfield National Park, much better river health and real opportunities for local jobs, training and infrastructure to assist both the local and the wider NT economy to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The ECNT and national environment groups have consistently advocated for the comprehensive clean-up of Rum Jungle and other former uranium sites across the Top End, including tracking Rio Tinto/ Energy Resources Australia’s performance at the recently closed Ranger mine in Kakadu.
“The legacy of Rum Jungle is a lesson for Ranger and we need to ensure the failures of the past are not replicated today,” said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney.
“Mine rehabilitation efforts are often under-funded and under-performing,” said MPI’s international mining industry analyst Dr Gavin Mudd.
“More closure planning is needed earlier in a project’s operations and rehabilitation works need credible funding. If it wants community acceptance of its operations then the mining industry needs to better meet its responsibilities. This important federal commitment to fund new efforts at Rum Jungle is good news. It is also a clear reminder that mine rehabilitation is complex and we don’t always get it right – hopefully this time we will.”
Further comment or context:
Shar Molloy - ECNT: 0488 112 350
Dave Sweeney - ACF: 0408 317 812
Dr Gavin Mudd - MPI: 0419 117 494