Rio’s ERA Looks at Options to Meet Second-Half Sales After Spill

Rio Tinto Group’s Energy Resources of Australia Ltd. is studying alternatives to meet second-half sales commitments after an acid and ore spill at its Ranger uranium mine last year forced a halt to processing.

The restart of operations will depend on regulator, government and ERA board approvals, the Darwin-based company said today in a statement. ERA, 68.4 percent owned by London-based Rio, reiterated that it has sufficient inventory to meet all supply commitments in the first half.

ERA said in December that a hole developed in a leaching tank, causing it to split and release acid ore slurry. Containment systems prevented any impact on world heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, ERA said.

ERA dropped 1.9 percent to A$1.32 at 2:52 p.m. Sydney time, while the benchmark index dropped 0.6 percent.

An investigation by the company found that the rubber lining inside the tank had been damaged as a result of wear, allowing acid to come into contact with the steel wall and causing corrosion, according to the statement. The company said it also finished a clean-up of material adjacent to the tank and accepted an outside expert’s recommendations.

Prices of the radioactive metal are forecast to climb more than 40 percent by the end of the year as Japanese power plants plan to restart nuclear reactors that have been shut down since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

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