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Australian Government - Supervising Scientist logo

MEDIA RELEASE

Issued 26 March 2004

Mine to Stay Closed Until People and Environment Not at Risk

Supervising Scientist, Dr Arthur Johnston, has requested Energy Resources Australia (ERA) not to recommence operations at the Ranger mine until he is satisfied that worker health, safety and the environment will not be at risk.

On Wednesday March 24, ERA decided to close the mine after concerns for worker safety following the discovery that the drinking water had been contaminated by process water used in the mine's operations.

The source of the contamination has since been identified and the drinking water system has been flushed out.

Tests are currently being carried out on the water quality in the drinking water system. Supervising Scientist staff will assess whether or not there are any traces of process water left in the system.

Dr Johnston said that staff are also assessing the potential environmental impact of an associated incident, in which process water leaked into a nearby creek system. It is understood that process water back flowed into a header tank and then overflowed into the creek. It is likely that this took place on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

"This problem in addition to the contamination of the potable water supply at the plant is not good enough. We are carefully looking at operations at the mine to ensure that any such leaks cannot be repeated when the mine recommences operations," he said.

"The health and safety of the workers and the Traditional Owners is my primary concern. I have requested that operations at Ranger do not resume until I have complete confidence that there are systems in place that will not allow a similar incident to happen again and that there is no risk to the health of people and the environment."

"In the meantime we are carefully collecting water samples from a number of locations to enable an assessment to be made of the environmental impact arising from this incident. We will continue to keep stakeholders informed of the results of our investigation," Dr Johnston said.

ERA has agreed to comply with Dr Johnston's request and will not recommence operations until assurances have been given.

Media contact:
Jacqui Rovis-Hermann
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