We undertook a scientific evaluation of the potential long-term impacts from tailings wastes produced at the Ranger Uranium Mine, investigating whether the closure plan for a tailings repository was environmentally sound and aligned with regulatory conditions for approval.

The challenge

Managing mine tailings

Around the world the minerals industry is seeking more effective ways to manage mining waste and reduce its environmental footprint.

Mine sites produce wastes (tailings) during the mineral processing stage. After processing, the mine tailings are often treated and stored in stable repositories, safe to the environment.

The Ranger Uranium Mine in the Northern Territory of Australia accounts for the majority of the nation's uranium production.

The mine is also surrounded by the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, an area of great environmental value with important seasonal water and groundwater resources and ecosystems.

In 2008, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd sought advice on a closure plan for the Ranger Uranium Mine attuned the sensitivities of its location.

Our response

Scientific planning for a safe future

We provided scientific advice on the long term geochemical stability of fluids and sediments within a major tailings repository at the mine.

This involved examining how the tailings residues interacted with groundwater, surface water and rainfall and predicting how contaminants within the tailings repository may behave and interact with the landscape over thousands of years.

The results delivered in 2014 confirmed that ERA's closure planning for the tailings repository was environmentally sound.

The results

Balancing productivity with sustainability

Our research enabled Energy Resources of Australia Ltd to manage Ranger Mine activities in a way that sustains operations responsibly while seamlessly planning for the ultimate closure of the site.

Through this work, we are helping the mining industry achieve more sustainable outcomes for Australia and also building the community's confidence in modern mining environmental management practices.

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