SYDNEY, June 5 (Reuters) - Processing of uranium from Australia’s Ranger mine is set to resume after its owner, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA), said it had received government approvals to restart following a toxic spill in December.
ERA, 68.4 percent owned by miner Rio Tinto , expects the processing plant near Kakadu National Park to reach normal production levels in the third quarter, with 2014 uranium oxide output forecast at 1,100-1,500 tonnes.
The disruption means ERA will show a $120 million-$140 million first-half loss, the company said.
An investigation into the spill found that more than 1 million litres of liquefied uranium material escaped from a corroded steel tank.
Workers were evacuated in the early hours of Dec. 7 when a hole was discovered in the tank. The tank subsequently split, knocking over a crane and spilling the uranium onto the ground.
Uranium oxide is used as fuel to generate nuclear power.
Heavy rainfall stopped operations for five months in 2012 at the Ranger mine, which can supply as much as 10 percent of the world’s uranium.
The approvals, from the Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy and the Commonwealth Minister for Industry, followed a probe into the integrity of the processing plant and related maintenance and safety systems following the latest incident, according to the company.
The price of uranium plunged after the March 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant. Japan idled its entire industry in response, exacerbating a worldwide supply glut.
June uranium futures stood at $28.25 per pound on Thursday versus $68 per pound before the earthquake and tsunami that led to the nuclear disaster. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)