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Rehabilitation & tailings management


Uranium mine rehabilitation relies on the same principles, frameworks, standards and general guidance that apply to rehabilitation practice across the resources industry.

Planning the closure of a uranium mine, as with all mines, begins with the first planning for development and operation of the mine. Rehabilitation will begin when a mine is operating and continue well after the mine is closed.

While there are best practice principles and guidelines for closure planning, each project and each operating mine is unique. The geological, climatic, metallurgical, hydrological, economic and cultural aspects of each mine are unique in themselves and unique in combination.

Rehabilitation and closure plans are regularly reviewed and updated in light of changing technology and practice and to reflect cultural change and changes in expectations of traditional owners and other stakeholders.

A vital principle is for mine operators always to estimate and re-estimate the costs of rehabilitation and mine closure and to make prudent provisions for these estimated costs in company accounts; companies plan for this upfront.

The fact that uranium waste is mildly radioactive does not alter the essential waste management task, which is the same approach used for the management of tailings from any mining operation: sound engineering design backed up by objective peer review, informed construction control and documentation, taking account of the characteristics of the particular site and environmental, social and economic considerations.

Ranger Pit 1 in 2000

Ranger Pit 1 with 70 percent capping


Uranium tailings result from the mining and processing of uranium bearing ore above a defined cut-off grade. The ore is typically reduced to sand and silt sizes by initial crushing followed by fine grinding. It is then subjected to further processing that involves acid or alkaline leaching to chemically extract the uranium. The crushed and ground rock wasted which remains after extraction of the uranium forms the majority of the tailings solids.

In 2013, the Australian Uranium Association commissioned Mr Peter Burgess, Senior Principal at Coffey Mining Pty Ltd to undertake the principal authorship of their publication ‘Uranium Tailings – Long Term Management Principles’.

This publication sets out the key principles that guide the planning, design and construction of storage facilities specifically for the long term management of uranium mill tailings.

The principles are applicable to uranium mining undertaken by either open-cut, surface strip or underground methods and where on-site processing requires storage of substantial quantities of solid and / or liquid waste materials.

The principles can be applied to address long term tailings management requirements in the planning, operational phases and closure phases of both new uranium mine developments and existing mines.

The principles are based on the extensive experience in practical application of tailings management techniques and principles across the broader mining sector in Australia. Comment was also sought from participants in the Australian uranium industry with experience managing their own tailings.

The publication was produced as a useful reference document for the industry policy makers and regulators of the uranium industry in Australia.

CLICK HERE to download a copy of ‘Uranium Tailings: Long term management principles’

Ranger tailings dam