Department of Industry and Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy

THE CHALLENGE

In December 2013, a processing vessel failed catastrophically resulting in a major spill of acidic leachate containing uranium at the Ranger Mine, which sits inside Kakadu National Park. Considerable concern was expressed about the incident by the traditional owners of the land, non-government organisations and the Federal and Territory Governments. The Federal Government challenge was to provide an independent investigatory capability and to devise a remedial action plan which, once complete, would be accepted and engender sufficient confidence to allow operations to restart.

WHAT NOETIC DID

Noetic worked with a specialist asset integrity firm to investigate the incident and to report to both the Federal and Northern Territory Governments on our findings. To do this, Noetic developed a comprehensive methodology to engage with stakeholders, review the incident and work with the operator to improve its operations so that it could restart the plant safely and minimise the likelihood of a similar incident. Noetic worked closely with key stakeholders, in particular the traditional owners who were represented by the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, so that they understood and agreed with Noetic’s approach. An important aspect of Noetic’s work was enhancing the operator’s understanding and capability towards the effective management of process safety. This included working closely with the operator in the development of a Process Safety Management Plan. Noetic reviewed this plan, the operations at the plant, and worked with senior management in preparation to restart the plant and to progressively bring it back to full service. Throughout the process Noetic liaised closely with both governments to advise them of progress and to resolve issues with stakeholders.

THE OUTCOME

Noetic provided a number of reports to both governments with a range of findings and recommendations on the operation of the Ranger plant. These were accepted by both governments and implemented. Key recommendations included agreement to restart the plant, strengthen regulatory capacity in government and ongoing oversight of the operator’s implementation of its Process Safety Management Plan.