Rio Tinto unit cleared for uranium mine restart

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Ranger Uranium Mine, Jabiru Image credit: Flickr User: Allan Laurence

Energy Resources Australia (ERA), a subsidiary of Rio Tinto Group, has received Government approval to resume processing of uranium from Australia’s Ranger mine following a toxic spill in December.

Ranger Uranium Mine, Jabiru Image credit: Flickr User:  Allan Laurence
Ranger Uranium Mine, Jabiru
Image credit: Flickr User:
Allan Laurence

The incident happened in December last year when a corroded steel tank ruptured and released more than 1 million litres of liquefied uranium material on the ground, forcing immediate evacuation on all personnel in the early hours of 7 December.

The approvals came after the Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy and the Commonwealth Minister for Industry investigated the integrity of the processing plant and related maintenance and safety systems and cleared the way for a restart.

According to the article on Reuters, the company’s 2014 uranium oxide output forecast stands at 1100–1500 tonnes, with a $120–140 million first-half loss due to the disruptions.

Uranium oxide is used as fuel to generate nuclear power, and it was the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima that led to a series of events which saw uranium prices fall dramatically in the last three years.

Uranium sold for $28.25 per pound on Thursday compared to $68 per pound before the accident took place.