$900m rare earths mine in Central Australia approved despite radioactive risk
A proposed $900 million rare earths mine in Central Australia is recommended for approval by the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority.

Arafura Resources Sustainability manager Brian Fowler said the low level radioactive material produced in the processing of rare earth material would be stored onsite in purpose-built dams.

"There will have to be a high level of operational management control for this project over a couple of generations, and there'll have to be a high level of regulatory scrutiny, there's no two ways about that," EPA chairman Paul Vogel said.

The primary risks include the permanent storage of naturally occurring radioactive material onsite and the use of significant groundwater resources over the 35 to 55-year lifespan of the project.

Mr Vogel said he understood public concern about such issues, and the effectiveness of the EPA to effectively monitor them, but said the authority was better placed to provide sufficient oversight.

It is estimated the project will use 2.7 gigalitres of groundwater a year, and the EPA has recommended aquifer levels and water usage be monitored in real-time with data made available to the public.

Kakadu Charter marks 15 years of shared values
Fifteen years ago this week two very different Australians representing the aspirations of very different communities signed a document outlining a shared vision for a better future. One was Yvonne Margarula leading the Mirarr people, the traditional owners of large parts of Kakadu. The other was Peter Garrett, famous at the time for fronting Midnight Oil and president of the Australian Conservation Foundation. Their names concluded the Kakadu Charter - a short document with a modest style that disguises its continuing significance.

What started as opposition to plans for uranium mining at Jabiluka has grown into a powerful platform for a different and better way of doing business in Kakadu. ERA is now majority owned by Rio Tinto who have publicly vowed not to mine Jabiluka without the consent of the Mirarr. This significant improvement in circumstances was bolstered by the end of threatened uranium mining elsewhere in Kakadu when the former Koongarra Project Area was incorporated into the surrounding Kakadu National Park and permanently protected from mining.

The challenge now facing ERA, Rio Tinto and the Northern Territory and Australian governments together with the Mirarr is one of comprehensive rehabilitation and facilitating the transition to a post mining regional economy – a vision clearly expressed in the Kakadu Charter.

The 15th anniversary of the Kakadu Charter is a good time for Aboriginal and environmental advocates to re-confirm our shared concern, action and effectiveness for the long awaited total rehabilitation and completion of Kakadu National Park.

In mid-October, after the Mirarr formally confirmed their support for the position taken publicly by Rio Tinto, ERA advised the Australian Stock Exchange that it respects "the views of the Traditional Owners and will undertake a review of its business in the light of their decision".

Traditional owners reject ERA's Ranger uranium extension
Traditional owners have officially rejected Energy Resources of Australia's desire to extend the expiry date on the Ranger uranium extension.

The slow demise of Kakadu uranium producer Energy Resources of Australia has continued, with the local Indigenous group confirming on Thursday that it would not support an extension to the company's mining lease.

ERA's lease, which is set to expire in 2021, is located on the traditional lands of the Mirarr people, and their support has been seen as a significant part of ERA's licence to operate.

ERA said it would undertake a review of its business in light of the decision, and was assessing whether an impairment was necessary.

Uranium mine backburning 'threatening Kakadu cultural sites'
he Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) said in a statement that ERA had failed to contain the fire, which it said had been lit too late in the dry season and on a hot and windy day.

"Once again the stone country is aflame late in the dry season," a spokeswoman said.

"This country has taken an absolute hammering over recent years from very hot, late dry season fires."

Indigenous traditional owners say a fire started at the Ranger uranium mine last week has moved into Kakadu National Park and is threatening cultural sites.

The late dry season fire burned with more heat and torched trees used for habitat by endangered species, as well as threatening sites of cultural significance.

"Important cultural sites are under threat as we speak," she said.

"Mirarr traditional owners are angry that this has been allowed to happen on their lands."

"ERA's failure to contain this fire demonstrates that nature does not discriminate between a uranium mining lease and a world heritage listed national park. This is one continuous landscape and this situation has huge implications for the future rehabilitation of the mine site"

ERA's loss widens to $255m
URANIUM miner Energy Resources of Australia has slumped to a $255 million half year loss after shelving a major mine expansion in challenging conditions.

THE Rio Tinto-controlled miner will not pay a half year dividend and said the uranium market remained challenging as an oversupply kept prices week.

Still, ERA says if nuclear generating units in Japan restart in the second half of 2015 as anticipated, that may provide support for uranium demand.
"Whilst the price recovery continues to be slow, in part due to the delay in reactor restarts in Japan, the long term outlook is more favourable," the company said.
Demand from the construction of new generation capacity in China was expected to exceed supply by the end of this decade, ERA added.

Half of the company's board quit last month after ERA decided its proposed new underground mine at Ranger would not proceed to a final feasibility study due to a sluggish uranium market.

Controlling shareholder Rio Tinto then pulled its support for any expansion of the mine, despite ERA saying it would seek to extend its authority to operate Ranger in order to re-visit the expansion at some stage.

ERA's net loss in the six months to June 30 is significantly larger than the $127 million loss incurred in the same period of 2014, due mainly to a $197 million writedown related to the mine decision.

That's a $255 million *half year* loss.