THE operator of the Ranger uranium mine expects to take drastic action to prevent radioactive water spilling into an Aboriginal community and Kakadu's World Heritage-listed wetlands.
More than 10 billion liters of highly contaminated water is trapped on the mine site 230 kilometres south-east of Darwin after near-record rainfalls.
Energy Resources of Australia, which is controlled by Rio Tinto, will be forced to pump water from the almost over-flowing dam into its operating open-cut mine known as Pit 3 if the Kakadu area receives about 100 millimetres more rain. With three weeks of the Top End's wet season remaining, more rain is likely.
This would delay for months, possibly years, the resumption of high-grade ore extraction in the pit that ERA relies on to supply 10 per cent of the world's uranium……
The crisis has thrown into doubt ERA's plans to expand its operation to include an underground mine and the use of a controversial acid heap leach processing technique to process low-grade ore.
The Ranger mine has had more than 150 leaks, spills and mishaps since it opened despite opposition from Kakadu's traditional owners in 1981.
Yvonne Margarula, a Mirarr senior traditional leader, said last week that her people were ''deeply saddened'' that uranium from their land at Ranger had been exported to Japanese nuclear power companies, including the one operating the stricken Fukushima plant.
This week the ERA chairman, David Klingner, publicly ruled out his company agreeing to give up the Jabiluka mineral lease, which contains known high-grade reserves of uranium worth more than $18 billion.