The Australian Government has secured the ongoing rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory, and the gradual return of the site to the Mirarr Traditional Owners, with Parliament passing legislation to continue government oversight of the clean-up project.
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Madeleine King said the Atomic Energy Amendment (Mine Rehabilitation and Closure) Bill 2022 passed the final stage in the Senate on Thursday, giving greater certainty that the mine’s operator Energy Resources Australia (ERA) can complete the rehabilitation works beyond 2026.
“The passage of the Bill is an important day for the ongoing clean up and rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine, which is adjacent to Kakadu National Park, and is the first step to extending ERA’s authority to fully rehabilitate the mine site,” Minister King said.
“The new laws will also enable progressive closing out of the site, so areas can transition back to underlying Aboriginal land tenure as those areas are rehabilitated.
“This will allow Ranger’s Mirarr Traditional Owners to get back on Country as soon as it is safe to do so.
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“The Government is committed to ensuring the mine site is restored to a condition similar to surrounding Kakadu National Park. Only the highest standard of rehabilitation will do for such an environmentally, culturally and historically important region.”
The Ranger uranium mine operated for 40 years until operations ended in January 2021. ERA, with the support of Rio Tinto, has committed to the long-term term rehabilitation plans and has been progressively rehabilitating the Ranger Project Area since the 1990s.
While rehabilitation is well advanced in some areas, the regulatory arrangements were due to end in January 2026 well before rehabilitation could be completed. The new laws, however, will ensure the regulatory framework is able to be extended until the job is done.
Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said the Northern Land Council and Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represent the Mirarr Traditional Owners, supported the legislation.
“Now this bill has passed, I will start negotiations on a new land access agreement with the Mirarr Traditional Owners,” Minister Burney said.
“This legislation now gives both ERA and the Mirarr Traditional Owners a line of sight for the land’s eventual rehabilitation and return, although a full handover is still some years away,
“We all look forward to seeing Ranger being a world-class example of mine rehabilitation.”