FORTY years after its closure, the Rum Jungle uranium mine continues to plague the Northern Territory with disagreements about responsibility causing cleanup delays.
The Commonwealth Government has taken over the site’s rehabilitation and allocated $14 million to speed up the process – on top of the initial $8.3 million spent since 2009 – to be spent across the next three years.
“The work undertaken over the past four years to develop a conceptual rehabilitation plan for Rum Jungle is detailed in the Northern Territory Government report, Former Rum Jungle Mine Site Conceptual Rehabilitation
Plan,” Federal Resources and Energy minister Gary Gray said.
“It is our intention to create a landscape that is safe for people and wildlife and significantly reduces contaminant loads downstream of the site.
“This work has the support of Traditional Aboriginal Owners and it will go a long way towards resolving the outstanding land claim.
“I look forward to the cooperative relationship that has been built up between the Australian and Northern Territory Governments, and the site’s Traditional Aboriginal Owners continuing.”
NT Mines and Energy minister Westra van Holthe welcomed the collaboration between the two governments.
“The first stage of the project, which developed the conceptual plan, has been an extremely successful project by the Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy,” he said.
“It is now time to move into Stage 2, which will provide detailed engineering design that would provide for Stage 3 – full rehabilitation of this legacy site.
“The minerals and energy sectors are an important part of our economy, but industry must realise the community and government expects and demands the best possible environmental performance from the commencement of the operation through to post-closure of the site.”
Between 1950 and 1971, Rum Jungle produced 3500t of uranium oxide, 20,000t of copper concentrate and small amounts of nickel and lead.
The project was one of the first and largest uranium projects in Australia and, while initially benefitting the local community, it came at a heavy cost.
Radioactive tailings at the site contaminated surrounding areas and groundwater, making the mine one of the worst polluters in Australia. Mr Gray said the future of Australia’s mining industry was dependent on the legacy it left.
“The industry today recognises that to gain access to future resources it needs to demonstrate that it can effectively operate and close mines with the support of communities,” he said.