AFTER 14 years negotiating, Rio Tinto subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia and traditional owners the Mirarr people have signed a new royalties agreement over the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory, two months after open cut operations stopped.
The old deal, signed in 1978 and subjective of extensive subsequent litigation, provided for a 5.5 per cent royalty per tonne of yellowcake sold, to be split between traditional owners and the federal government (receiving 4.25 per cent combined), and the Northern Territory government (1.25 per cent).
The new deal is commercial in confidence but provides increased funding to the Mirarr people, and the announcement helped lift ERA shares 6 per cent or 7.5¢ to $1.41 on Thursday.
Senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula welcomed the agreement between ERA, Mirarr representative body the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, as well as the federal government and the Northern Land Council, saying: "We Mirarr are happy that today, after so long, we have a fairer agreement for mining at Ranger," she said. "My father never agreed to Ranger. Our right to stop the mine was taken away by the government. It is good that after all these years we have a better agreement for Mirarr."
The corporation's executive officer, Justin O'Brien, said the Mirarr "stand to get a lot more under the reconfiguration of the arrangements ... [but the] draw on the mining company is not substantially different".
Because of the long negotiations, "there is a degree of retrospectivity [including payment] of what I would describe as lost earnings".
The new agreement establishes a relationship committee and a sustainability trust and will apply to revenues from the mining of stockpiles at Ranger, which is expected to continue until 2021. It does not apply to the proposed Ranger 3 Deeps underground mine, which will require a separate agreement with the Mirarr, and is silent on the future of the major Jabiluka deposit.