Environmental incident assessment and investigation at Ranger and Jabiluka

Current Investigations

Date Incident Status
7 December 2013 Leach Tank Failure The Leach tank failure resulted in an uncontrolled release of mine slurry containing mineralised ore and acid within the processing area of the mine site. SSD is currently undertaking an investigation into the incident to confirm that there has been no impact on the external environment or human health, and that the surrounding environment, including Kakadu National Park, remains protected. The Interim Report: Investigation into the environmental impacts of the leach tank failure at Ranger uranium mine, December 2013 found that there was no offsite environmental impact resulting from the tank failure. SSD undertakes continuous monitoring of the waterways surrounding the mine lease and the results are made publically available via the Environmental Monitoring webpage.

Background to incident investigation

The rules for reporting incidents have varied over the life of the mine but the current system under the Environmental Requirements (ERs) has been in force since 1 January 2000, and states that:

The mine operator must directly and immediately notify the Supervising Authority, the Supervising Scientist, the Minister and the Northern Land Council of all breaches of any of these Environmental Requirements and any mine-related event which:

  • results in significant risk to ecosystem health; or
  • which has the potential to cause harm to people living or working in the area; or
  • which is of or could cause concern to Aboriginals or the broader public.

Immediately upon receipt of notification of a mine related event the Supervising Scientist Division (SSD) assesses the circumstances of the situation and a senior officer makes a decision on the appropriate level of response. Dependent on the assessment, this response will range from implementation of an immediate independent investigation such as occurred in March 2004 following a potable water contamination incident, through seeking further information from the mine operator before making such a decision. In those cases where immediate action is not considered to be required the situation is again reviewed on receipt of a formal incident investigation report from the operator.

In addition to these statutory requirements for incident reporting Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), the mine operator, has since 2000 undertaken to provide stakeholders with a comprehensive list of environmental issues reported at its Ranger and Jabiluka operations on a monthly basis. This regime of reporting all recorded environmental issues is undertaken voluntarily by ERA in response to concerns expressed by stakeholders about the establishment of suitable thresholds of incident severity for reporting.

Prior to each Routine Periodic Inspection (RPI) the inspection team reviews the previous month's reports and any open issues. Where issues are considered to have any potential environmental significance or represent repetitions of a class of occurrences an onsite review is scheduled as a part of the RPI protocol.

Incidents this reporting period

The SSD prepares a report for the Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee which meets twice a year. Table 1 shows the environmental issues reported to SSD for the period April 2014 to June 2014. Several reported issues were investigated by SSD through the RPI process. All information provided through the RPI was deemed to be satisfactory and no further follow up action was required. No reportable incidents or environmental issues occurred at the Jabiluka site during the reporting period.

To allow for ease of interpretation and presentation the issues have been grouped into general location of occurrence and type and presented in Table 1.

Table 1 Incidents at Ranger from April 2014 to June 2014 (inclusive)
  ADU Hydrocarbon
Spill
Fire Process Water Radiation
Clearance
Tailings
Spill
Other Total
Infrastructure³ - 1 - - - - 2 3
Offsite - - - - - - - -
Operations² - - - - - - - -
Processing¹ - 1 - - - - - 1
RPA - - - - - - - -
Tailings Circuit - - - - - - - -
Total - 2 - - - - 2 4

¹ Processing area incidents occurred in the SX, sand filters, calciner, CCD and product packing
² Mine Operations area incidents occurred in Pit 1, Pit 3 and the TSF delivery line
³Infrastructure area incidents occurred in the laterite treatment plant, acid plant, workshop and maintenance services area