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Uranium mine leaks dominate Rio AGM

Staff Reporter | 9:12 PM | |
 
MELBOURNE: Rio Tinto's uranium operations are contributing nothing to its profits — but they dominated its annual general meeting.

Anti-nuclear activists had plenty of ammunition after two toxic, radioactive spills in a week at its two uranium mines shortly before Christmas.

Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Dave Sweeney accused the board of shirking its responsibilities by refusing to guarantee that it would fund the rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine site. The site is surrounded by the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, was shut down after December's spill and is operated by Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), which Rio owns 68 per cent of.

"I would urge you to commit to Rio Tinto addressing its full financial and other responsibilities for its subsidiary," Mr Sweeney said at the AGM in Melbourne.

"You share common uranium marketing with ERA, you direct ERA and ERA reports to Rio Tinto’s energy division."

Rio’s chief executive Sam Walsh told the AGM ERA was a public company controlled by an independent board that would decide how to rehabilitate the area. As the major shareholder, Rio would play its part and he insisted there had been no overflows of leaked material into rivers.

The company was also presented with a letter from a community group representing people connected to Rio’s Rossing uranium mine in Namibia.