Uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region
Nabarlek uranium mine
Nabarlek operational (Photo: OSS)
The Nabarlek uranium mine in the Alligator Rivers Region, operated from 1979 until 1989, and was decommissioned in 1994/95. The small and concentrated orebody was mined in a single 143-day campaign during the 1979 Dry season. The ore was stockpiled on a specially prepared site while the mill was being built, and then processed over the next nine years.
The Nabarlek mine exhibits some interesting features, demonstrating unique approaches to mine site rehabilitation. A significant feature of the operation was the return of tailings directly to the mined out pit. It is still believed to be a unique occurrence of uranium mining in the world. This was in accordance with the Environmental Requirements of the Australian Government - a set of conditions put in place to ensure that the operation gave the environment the highest possible level of protection.
The development of plans for the decommissioning and rehabilitation of Nabarlek commenced at the outset of mining operations. These plans, which consisted of many components, underwent a series of reviews and updates to take into account changes in mine development, results of site-specific research, and new technologies. The shape of the final domed cover over the pit was based on research into the landforms in the area. The rehabilitation objective, as agreed with the Traditional Owners and the supervising authorities, was to establish a landscape that matched as closely as possible the surrounding areas and would permit traditional hunting and gathering activities to be pursued.
In early 2008 Uranium Equities Limited (UEL) bought Queensland Mines Pty Ltd (QML), thereby acquiring the Nabarlek lease, and have since developed plans to further explore the lease, clean up the site and continue revegetation and rehabilitation works. A new Mining Management Plan (MMP) was submitted and an exploration authorisation granted on 28 May 2008.
Watertank and former hardstand area (Photo: OSS)
Former hardstand and runoff pond area (Photo: OSS)