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Issued 6 April 2004
The Supervising Scientist, Dr Arthur Johnston, today advised the Northern Territory Government that he considered that ERA had met environmental and safety conditions such that he could now support the resumption of full operations at the Ranger mine.
All operations at the Ranger site ceased on 24 March 2004 following an incident in which drinking water at the site became contaminated by process water. Ranger staff had previously been able to return to the mine site to undertake maintenance activities and mining operations but the Ranger mill remained closed.
"Contamination of the drinking water system was caused by inappropriate actions within the mill circuit," Dr Johnston said. "Before agreeing to resumption of full operations including milling, we needed to be convinced that measures had been implemented that would ensure that the environment and health of workers and local people would not be put at risk in the future."
Dr Johnston said that Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), the operator of the Ranger mine, has fully flushed the drinking water system with clean water and has now demonstrated that the water in the system meets all of the requirements specified in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
"Based on a wide range of analyses, ERA has now demonstrated that the drinking water system at Ranger has now been fully flushed and that no remnant of the process water remains in the system," Dr Johnston said.
"ERA has also taken measures to ensure that no connection will be made between the process water system and the drinking water system in the future," Dr Johnston said. "In addition, systems are now in place to detect any such occurrence and ensure immediate corrective action."
The Supervising Scientist had also requested that, prior to resuming operations in the mill, ERA should address a number of issues related to the water distribution system in the Ranger mill. These issues have all now been addressed to the satisfaction of the Supervising Scientist.
In addition, ERA has committed to upgrading the process water system with an investment in significant new infrastructure which will further improve safety and environmental performance at the mine.
"I am satisfied that that all of the measures that I believe are necessary to ensure this does not happen again have now been implemented," Dr Johnston said. "I have, therefore, advised the Northern Territory Government that I would support the resumption of milling operations at Ranger."
The Supervising Scientist will continue to work with ERA and the Northern Territory government to ensure that the drinking water system in the region of Jabiru East is safely restored as soon as possible.
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