Australia’s Ranger Uranium Mine Moves Closer to Closure

Uranium producer Energy Resources of Australia (ASX:ERA) is moving ahead with the full closure of the Ranger mine located in the Northern Territory.

In addition to shutting down the uranium production, ERA is also exploring a number of rehabilitation options for the site with fellow Australian miner and parent company Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO,NYSE:RIO).

In early December, the energy producer announced the preliminary results of the Ranger project area closure feasibility study, which indicated the cost to remediate the site would be more than first expected.

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Energy Resources had earmarked AU$ 512 million for rehabilitation at Ranger. However, in its December 2018 overview, which was recently released, the company notes that an additional AU$ 296 million has been designated for site clean-up, bringing the total to AU$ 808 million.

The Ranger mine, which began operations in 1980, is one of Australia’s oldest uranium mines, and one of only three on the continent.

While production has been consistent at Ranger, output has shrunk dramatically in the last year.

“ERA produced 613 tonnes of uranium oxide in the December 2018 quarter compared to 544 tonnes in the September 2018 quarter,” noted the company’s recent ASX announcement. “Total production for 2018 was 1,999 tonnes of uranium oxide compared to 2,294 tonnes produced in 2017.”

Despite year-over-year output being decreased, production for December 2018 was higher than the previous quarter as a result of a higher mill head grade and increased mill recoveries.

“In accordance with the company’s mine plan, continued uranium production is based on the processing of primary ore stockpiles, applying a declining grade strategy,” the press release added.

Ongoing rehabilitation also occurred in December with efforts focused on water treatment, the transfer of tailings from the tailings storage facility to pit 3 and progression of procurement and construction of additional dredging and tailings infrastructure.

The company expects to finalize the rehabilitation feasibility study sometime this month.

“Rio Tinto has advised ERA it will work with ERA and its other shareholders and stakeholders with the objective of ensuring that ERA is in a position to meet in full the likely future rehabilitation requirements of the Ranger project area,” the announcement noted.

ERA shares were down 56 percent on Monday (January 14), trading at AU$ 0.225.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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