Published on Thursday January 12 2012 (AEST).
URANIUM miner Energy Resources of Australia today said the highest December rainfall on record had flooded its Ranger pit in the Northern Territory, preventing it from accessing high-grade ore.
ERA, which is controlled by Rio Tinto, said it hasn't been able to fully drain the pit, and that access is highly dependent on rainfall experienced for the rest of the wet season. The delay may impact uranium oxide production in the 2012 calendar year, it said.
ERA reported a 30 per cent increase in output to 2641 tonnes for the 12 months to December 31, 2011, although this was coming off a low base amid a difficult period for the miner.
Ranger, the second-biggest uranium mine in the world by production in 2010, is just about spent and ERA is encountering lower-grade ore at the bottom of the pit, triggering a spate of production downgrades.
"The delay in obtaining access to the high-grade ore located towards the bottom of Pit 3 may impact production of uranium oxide in 2012. However, the extent of this impact is presently uncertain," ERA said in a statement.
The company recently ditched plans to build a heap leach facility to process poorer quality ore, and instead chose to pursue a possible expansion of Ranger through development of the adjacent Ranger 3 Deeps deposit.