It's costing a fortune but the Ranger uranium mine is gradually being cleaned up

The sprawling Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory, dangerously tucked inside the world famous Kakadu National Park. Picture: Energy Resources Australia.
The sprawling Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory, dangerously tucked inside the world famous Kakadu National Park. Picture: Energy Resources Australia.

Over the years many people questioned the decision to allow uranium to be mined inside one of Australia's most famous and largest national parks - Kakadu.

But in 1980 that's exactly what happened, an open-cut mine surrounded by a park famed for its natural beauty made even more famous by the hugely popular Paul Hogan movie, Crocodile Dundee.

Now the uranium is gone, dug out and sent off to nuclear power stations around the world and Australia's longest continually operated uranium mine is almost done.

Nuclear power is making way for renewable energy.

Uranium has been mined at Ranger for more than three decades, producing in excess of 130,000 tonnes of uranium oxide.

The mine is being closed, Jabiru - the town built to service to the mine workers, is in the process of being handed over to Traditional Owners and the mining company is being closely watched as it delivers on its promise to clean up the site.

Cleaning up uranium mines is not something the Northern Territory does well - there is still a huge environmental mess at Rum Jungle closer to Darwin.

That uranium mine is a legacy of the Cold War.

Australia's first large scale uranium mine was dug at Rum Jungle on behalf of our "Allies" in the UK and USA to fuel their nuclear weapon programs in the 1950s.

Now water fills that vast open cut, a lake as locals call it, and another attempt is going to have to be made to cap the radioactive tailings left behind, the first attempt, supposed to last a century, failed after 20 years.

Energy Resources Australia, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, says it has spent more than $642 million in the past eight years on rehabilitation of the mountains of tailings complicated by a lake created from a vast flooded pit.

ERA said it was well on track to do what many thought impossible.

Rio Tintos ERA is required to cease mining and processing at Ranger by January 2021, with final rehabilitation to be completed by January 2026.

The mine is only eight kilometres east of Jabiru.

ERA has released a video to prove it made made huge progress on the rehabilitation of Pit 1 with more than 13 million tonnes of "bulk material" moved to fill the pit in readiness for tree planting and other revegetation work.

ERA's chief executive Paul Arnold said the company's plan "reflects the complexity of rehabilitating a site in this environmentally and culturally sensitive region, is comprehensive and achievable".

He said it was based on long term research, expert studies, best practicable technology, cultural guidance from the Mirarr Traditional Owners and thorough stakeholder review.

This story It's costing a fortune but the NT's uranium mine is being cleaned up, gradually first appeared on Katherine Times.