UPDATE 1-Australia's ERA says no timeframe for Ranger shutdown
* Rio's majority-owned ERA launching probe into radioactive leak
* Too early to say how long ore processing will be halted
* Shutdown at Ranger mine may help ailing uranium market (Recasts, adds details)
SYDNEY, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Uranium producer Energy Resources of Australia Ltd said on Monday it has yet to determine how long a radioactive slurry leak will halt ore processing at the Ranger mine in Australia.
Shares in ERA, which is 68.4 percent owned by Rio Tinto , fell 11 percent to a five-month low when trading opened on fears of a lengthy shutdown.
ERA said cleanup operations after the failure of a leach tank containing radioactive slurry, an acidic mix of waste ore from the mining process, were well advanced.
The company was now working out the extent of required repairs, the likely duration of the shutdown and the impact on 2014 production.
A long shutdown could boost uranium demand, which has been outweighed by supply since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, as ERA may be forced to purchase uranium from other suppliers to meet delivery contracts.
Processing work at the mine was halted in early 2011 by heavy rains and wasn't restarted until June of that year, requiring outside purchases.
Prior to Saturday's incident, ERA was forecasting it would produce 2,800-3,200 tonnes of uranium oxide in 2013. In the first nine months production totaled 2,457 tonnes.
Global demand in 2014 is seen climbing 10 percent to 81,200 tonnes due to new reactors in China, according to Australia's Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics.
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.
December uranium futures stood at $34.75 per pound on Monday compared with $68 per pound before the earthquake and tsunami that led to the nuclear disaster.
ERA said no one was injured in the latest incident and that a containment system in place prevented contamination of the surrounding World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.
Most of the value in ERA is linked to its efforts to start a new underground uranium mine beneath the open pits, which ceased mining last year. The company is using stockpiled ore to process into concentrated form known as yellow cake for sale.
ERA's plan for the underground extension, known as the Three Deep project is awaiting permission from traditional land owners to begin construction. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Richard Pullin)
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