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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Supervising Scientist Annual Report 2000-01

Environment Australia, 2001
ISSN 1441-9335

Appendix 2

Implementation of Recommendations of Supervising Scientist Report 153

No.

Recommendation

Summary of Progress

1

ERA should undertake a full review of the Tailings Dam Corridor with particular emphasis on the efficacy with which it performs the task of providing secondary containment. The Terms of Reference for the Review should be approved by the Supervising Scientist.

ERA has undertaken permeability tests within the Tailings Dam Corridor. The review of the Ranger Process Water System has been completed by ANSTO and the MTC, and ERA are implementing the recommendations made in that report. 

2

All Recommendations on maintenance procedures in Tailings Dam Corridor made in the Sinclair Knight Merz Review of the Tailings Dam Corridor should be implemented.

ERA is making sound progress implementing SKM report recommendations, which become subsumed within the ANSTO process water system review.

3

ERA should strengthen the Ranger Management Team to ensure that there is an effective interface with external stakeholders and that decisions are made quickly to meet the expectations of the stakeholders.

ERA re-established the position of Ranger General Manager. A stakeholder relations position has been added to the Ranger Management Team. Both positions have been filled.

4

ERA should take immediate steps to put in place an employee training program designed to ensure that all employees appreciate the need to keep the authorities informed of any event that could be perceived to be of concern to the local Aboriginal people or the broader community, not just incidents that are acknowledged infringements of the Ranger General Authorisation or the Environmental Requirements.

ERA has commenced developing training programs which have been referred to Supervising Scientist for review.

5

The Supervising Scientist should offer to assist ERA in the above training program. In particular, the Supervising Scientist should provide a briefing to ERA employees on issues of significance in this report, and any other issues that are considered to be of concern to members of the public.

The Supervising Scientist has briefed senior ERA executives and members of the Ranger Management Team on issues of significance during ongoing liaison with ERA and in particular, at a meeting held on 3 August 2000. A draft training presentation provided to the Supervising Scientist by ERA is being assessed.

6

ERA should upgrade the environment protection staff structure at Jabiru to ensure that the company has the on-site ability to effectively identify, interpret and rectify environmental incidents.

ERA has appointed a new Senior Environmental Scientist and has appointed a permanent Environment, Safety and Health Manager. ERA is also utilising the expertise of its environmental consultants, EWLS, to assist in strategic environmental management planning.

7

ERA should complete a comprehensive investigation of the additional sources of manganese, including previous tailings spills in the Tailings Dam Corridor, and provide a report to the Minesite Technical Committee.

ERA has undertaken a comprehensive review of its records and identified locations of previous spills of tailings and process water in the Tailings Dam Corridor. EWLS (ERA's environmental consultants) is undertaking a scientific investigation into the waste rock pile as a possible source of manganese. ERA has completed a survey of the Tailings Dam Corridor to identify tailings that could be an additional source of manganese. Tailings were identified in two locations and subsequently removed.

8

The Minister for Industry Science and Resources should consider what action should be taken in response to the established breach of the Environmental Requirements 3.4 and 16.1 taking into account:

  • The radiological and ecological impact arising from the leak of tailings water to the environment has been negligible
  • The leak resulted from poor maintenance practices in the Tailings Dam Corridor
  • The view of the Traditional Owners of the Ranger Project Area is that Aboriginal people will only believe that the Government takes their concerns seriously if substantive action is taken.

Minister Minchin considered that ERA should not be prosecuted by the Commonwealth, and required that the recommendations of the Supervising Scientist leak report be implemented.

9

The statutory environmental monitoring program should be extended to enhance its capacity to provide early warning of unplanned releases of contaminants. This extension should include the establishment of additional monitoring locations within secondary containment systems that would indicate the failure of primary containment systems.

A draft paper on the Philosophy of Monitoring has been developed by the MTC. This paper will contribute to a review of environmental monitoring at Ranger being undertaken by EWLS (ERA's environmental consultants) with the assistance of oss.

10

The Minesite Technical Committee should review the inspection and monitoring system at Ranger to establish and implement measures that will detect failures in the secondary containment systems and structures.

ERA has installed two additional monitoring points in the Tailings Dam Corridor; one at the toe of the very low grade waste rock dump and another immediately upstream of the Tailings Corridor Sump. This recommendation is being implemented in parallel with recommendation 9.

11

ERA should provide the Supervising Scientist and the Supervising Authorities with all research data as they become available rather than at the end of research projects. Protocols should be developed for the appropriate use of research data.

A protocol for the exchange of research data has been agreed. Monthly meetings to discuss research issues and data have commenced.

12

The Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy should undertake a comprehensive review of its site inspection regime in light of deficiencies identified in this report, and design and implement a new proactive inspection regime within a risk management framework.

NTDME is preparing revised inspection checklists.

13

The Supervising Scientist should ensure that there is an adequate and independent on-site audit program related to potential off-site environmental consequences arising from operation of the Ranger mine and mill.

The MTC has commenced the implementation of a new audit regime, complying with the ISO 14001 series of standards, which replaces the Environmental Performance Reviews. oss, NLC and NTDME completed the first annual audit of Ranger and Jabiluka in April 2001. A mid-term review (audit) conducted by oss, NLC and NTDME will be undertaken each year in November/December. The MTC is considering the further development of the new audit regime by the use of external accredited consultant auditors. oss now conducts monthly site inspections. The first monthly site inspection was of Ranger in January 2001.

14

The Supervising Scientist should develop and implement a routine environmental monitoring program whose focus should be the provision of advice on the extent of protection of the people and ecosystems of Kakadu National Park. A component of the program could also provide support to the on-site audit program referred to in Recommendation 13.

During 2000–2001, the Supervising Scientist diverted resources from research to enable this program to commence. A full biological monitoring program was carried out during the 2000–2001 Wet season as well as a chemical monitoring program of limited scope. A monitoring team will be established in 2001–2002 to further develop and implement the Supervising Scientist environmental monitoring program. The Government has provided the Supervising Scientist with the additional resources required to undertake this task in the 2001–2002 budget.

15

The Working Arrangements between the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory regarding the regulation of uranium mining activities in the Alligator Rivers Region should be reviewed and amended to take into account changes in the activities of the Supervising Scientist arising from this report.

The NT Government has signed the Agreement on the regulation of uranium mining which provides for the revision of the Working Arrangements.

16

The Minesite Technical Committee should develop guidelines clarifying requirements for the reporting of incidents which retain the transparency of the current system, are consistent with Environmental Requirement 16.1, reduce the need for the exercise of judgement by staff of ERA and will assist in minimising undue concern for Aboriginal people and the broader community.

ERA has developed an unplanned event register which is reported to stakeholders periodically. A new reporting system was agreed by the MTC, trialled for three months and is now operational. The definition of a closed system was clarified by the MTC which determines if leaks in the process water system are required to be reported.

17

The Working Arrangements between the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory regarding the regulation of uranium mining activities in the Alligator Rivers Region should be reviewed and amended to require the Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy and the Supervising Scientist to immediately inform each other of any information they may acquire independently which could be of environmental significance.

The NT Government signed the Agreement on the regulation of uranium mining which provides for the revision of the Working Arrangements.