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Publications archive - Annual reports

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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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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.

Department of the Environment and Heritage Annual Report 2002-03

Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2003
ISSN 1441 9335

Review of performance - Outcome one: Environment (continued)

Industry (continued)

Supervision and research on the environmental impact of uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region, Northern Territory

(Departmental output 1.6)

Objective

To effectively supervise the environmental management of uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region and conduct research on the environmental impact of such mining.

Result

The Supervising Scientist's scrutiny of uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region continued to ensure that the region's environment remains protected. This has been achieved through a combination of research, monitoring, supervision and reporting.

Research

The Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist carries out environmental research which provides the Supervising Scientist with information required to undertake his statutory roles under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978.

Research is structured around four themes: ecological risk assessment; environmental radioactivity; hydrological and ecological processes; and ecosystem protection.

The ecological risk assessment research program provides advice on the significance of threats to the biological diversity and functioning of tropical wetlands in the Alligator Rivers Region and elsewhere. Activities during the year included:

The environmental radioactivity program provides advice on the protection of people from radiological risk during and after mining activities. Activities included:

The hydrological and ecological processes program provides advice on landscape processes to detect possible mining-related impacts. Activities included:

The ecosystem protection program provides advice on the protection of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Activities included:

Monitoring

The research program is complemented by a comprehensive chemical and biological stream monitoring program in the vicinity of Ranger and Jabiluka.

Monitoring information allowed the Supervising Scientist to conclude with a very high degree of certainty that ecosystems downstream of mining activities have been protected in accordance with the Australian Government's environmental requirements. Monitoring data is published weekly on the Supervising Scientist's web site during the wet season.

Supervision

The Supervising Scientist conducts periodic site inspections and manages twice-yearly audits of the Ranger and Jabiluka sites. These inspections and audits are carried out in a manner consistent with the internationally-recognised ISO14000 series of standards. The outcomes of audits are reported twice-yearly to the Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee.

This rigorous system of inspections and audits, together with the Supervising Scientist's participation in the Northern Territory Government's regulatory processes, reflects the very high level of environmental protection required by the Australian Government.

The local standards for air quality were met at the Ranger and Jabiluka sites, as demonstrated by atmospheric monitoring in accordance with the requirements of the general authorisation. Water quality at the sites similarly met all required standards as demonstrated by data published in the monitoring programs of Energy Resources of Australia, the Northern Territory Government supervising authorities and the Supervising Scientist. None of the site-specific water quality limits at either site was exceeded due to mining during the year.

Reporting

The Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee provides a forum for communication and consultation between community, government and industry stakeholders on environmental issues associated with uranium mining. The committee met in August and December 2002.

The Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee provides the basis for rigorous peer scrutiny of the science used in supervising uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region. The committee has 13 members, of whom seven (including the chair) are independent, internationally recognised scientists with expertise in a diverse range of disciplines. The other six members represent government and industry stakeholders. The committee met in September 2002 and February 2003.

The Supervising Scientist continued to publish reports on standards, practices and procedures developed to protect the environment and people from the effects of uranium mining. A list of reports published during 2002-03 is included in the Supervising Scientist's annual report.