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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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

Environment Australia Annual Report 1999-2000

Environment Australia, 2000
ISBN 0642450420
ISSN 1441-9335

Annual Report of the Supervising Scientist 1999-2000

4. Community relations - interacting with the aboriginal community

Building meaningful relations with the Aboriginal communities of the Alligator Rivers Region is an important element of the Supervising Scientist's role. Research work conducted inside or outside the Jabiluka and Ranger mine lease areas is on Aboriginal land and, in recognition of this, the organisation has an obligation to keep the landowners informed about its research and findings.

In order to facilitate better two-way communication with the Aboriginal community of Kakadu, the Supervising Scientist formed the Aboriginal Communications Unit with the appointment of a manager in February and an officer in April 2000. The unit was established to develop and implement communication programmes to ensure that all stakeholders, especially the local Aboriginal communities and associations, are kept informed about research work eriss undertakes. The unit is also responsible for establishing an Aboriginal employment and training programme within eriss.

The unit's first priority is to establish effective communication links with the Aboriginal communities of the Alligators Rivers Region, including Kakadu National Park, after which it will also become involved in communication programmes for the wider community.

Creation of the unit in the later half of the reporting year has meant that the programmes are in the early stages of development. However, substantial progress has been made towards a number of initiatives both internal and external.

One such initiative has been the involvement of landowners in a fish counting and monitoring programme in billabongs on the Ranger mining lease and in the surrounding Kakadu National Park. While this programme has been running for a number of years, this is the first time local Aboriginal people have been involved in the programme in its entirety.

eriss recognises the importance of utilising the experience and knowledge of traditional landowners in the collection and identification of fish and the recording of data. The traditional owners of the mineral leases, the Mirrar People, were employed to work at billabongs on their country, and the Murrumburr landowners collaborated with eriss at the control sites which are upstream of any possible mining impact. Aboriginal people from Arnhem Land and adjacent areas also worked alongside eriss and Mirrar traditional owners on billabongs in Arnhem land. All parties involved in the programme gained valuable experience from working in a cross cultural environment. The programme also provided an opportunity for eriss to demonstrate some of its scientific work to a very important stakeholder, the traditional owners of the land.

As part of a cane toad impact study, the unit coordinated a collaborative research and liaison survey on the impact that cane toads have had on Aboriginal people in some parts of the Northern Territory. The survey was conducted at Aboriginal communities from the Katherine to Borroloola region to hear first hand what impact, if any, the cane toad is having on their lives with the decline of certain bush-foods. The survey was conducted by Parks Australia North, eriss and some traditional owners of Kakadu National Park. The information gathered on the survey will be used to develop a communication programme for the traditional owners of Kakadu to inform the community about the possible impacts that the cane toad could have on bush tucker in their region.

To help keep the Aboriginal people and associations of Kakadu informed about the range of research work eriss undertakes, the Aboriginal Communications Unit produces a bimonthly newsletter summarising work that has been undertaken and that which is proposed for the near future. These newsletters are written in plain English and outline the reason for the research and not the scientific methodology behind it. It is distributed to all Aboriginal stakeholder groups, as well as local and Commonwealth government agencies and the Ranger mine. An invitation for full briefings on the topics summarised in the newsletter is extended with each edition.

The Supervising Scientist organisation continued to take an active role in community festivals and cultural events with displays and interactive educational activities. Staff volunteer their time to run educational programmes at these events which provides eriss with an opportunity to demonstrate some techniques used in scientific research, such as the use of microscopes and the sorting of macroinverterbrates.

Individual displays and information sessions are also conducted for Aboriginal communities for issues as they arise. The Supervising Scientist organisation conducts an annual information session at the Aboriginal community of Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) to discuss with traditional owners progress on plans for the rehabilitation of the Nabarlek mine site.

Internal initiatives have included the implementation of a communications protocol to ensure that the approach taken and the methods used to communicate with traditional landowners and associated groups are appropriate and consistent. Cross cultural training was made available to all staff along with training on working with Aboriginal people for staff who would be involved in the employment and training programme. A cross cultural and protocol briefing has been included in the induction programme for new staff.


5. General research and nuclear issues

5.1 Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality

The Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, through Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) and the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ), have developed a National Water Quality Management Strategy (NWQMS) for the sustainable use of Australia's water resources. The Australian Water Quality Guidelines, released by ANZECC in 1992, are an important component of the strategy. In 1996, eriss was given the task of managing the first review of the Guidelines on behalf of ANZECC.

The review of the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality has been comprehensive, involving a large number of scientists from across Australia and New Zealand. Early drafts of the Guidelines were reviewed by ANZECC and ARMCANZ committees in 1998 and 1999, after which they were released for a three month public consultation phase, in July 1999. Between December 1999 and March 2000, Guidelines authors incorporated changes arising from the 96 public submissions. After further ANZECC/ARMCANZ agency review, the Guidelines were forwarded to the Standing Committee for Environmental Protection in May 2000 and to ANZECC for Ministerial approval in June. Following ANZECC endorsement of the Guidelines in July 2000, the Guidelines ‘package', including a CD-ROM of support material, and a short user-friendly ‘Introduction', is now being prepared for publication in October (2000).

By world standards, the new Australian and New Zealand Guidelines are ground-breaking. The most significant advance in these Guidelines is the move away from applying global ‘magic number', default guideline values. Instead, the Guidelines encourage formulation of, and provide guidance for deriving, local, site-specific guidelines. Such locally relevant guidelines will provide the same high protection but with less restrictive options for industry. The support databases and a software package are provided to help users develop their own site specific water quality guidelines. Other novel features of the Guidelines include:

5.2 Multicities air particulate monitoring programme

This ongoing project aims to provide detailed data on air quality and environmental dynamics of the South East Asian region. Analysis and interpretation of data collected over the past decade were completed this year and are summarised here. The Gippsland Centre for Environmental Science, Monash University in collaboration with eriss has established a sampling site at Jabiru East as part of a network of regional sampling stations. This network includes Darwin, Samarinda in East Kalimantan (Indonesia), Dili in East Timor and Kuala Belalong in Brunei. There are also sites in the major cities of Jakarta, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Seoul. The Jabiru East site is also an important contributor to the South-East Asian Fire Research Experiment (SEAFIRE), a major project of the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry Project.

In late 1994 a High Volume Air Sampler began sampling for twenty-four hour periods on a six day rotational sampling programme. This programme is continuing, with chromatographic analysis of samples being performed at Monash University on a regular basis. In May 1995 a low volume stacked filter cassette sampler unit was relocated to Jabiru East and operated until December 1996 in tandem with the High Volume Air Sampler unit. Spectrometric analysis for some 30 elements, using nuclear related analytical techniques were performed on the samples at the University of Ghent, Belgium.

Of the five regional stations, Jabiru East recorded the lowest average total suspended particulate matter concentrations. Figure 5.1 shows the monthly average fine (PM2.5), coarse (2.5-10 mm) and total (PM10) particulate mass data at Jabiru East between May 1995 and December 1996, with Wet and Dry seasons indicated. The mean summed particulate matter of PM10 at Jabiru East was 12.6 mg/m3 with a maximum of 44.5 mg/m3. The fine range of PM2.5 average was 5.7 mg/m3 with a maximum of 21.4 mg/m3. Median coarse and fine black carbon levels were at 97 ng/m3 and 570 ng/m3 respectively. Strong seasonal dependencies were obtained for coarse and fine PM and for fine Black Carbon at Jabiru East. These dependencies are attributed to the seasonal nature both of the dominant source in the region (biomass burning) and of particulate removal by rainfall.

5.3 Contribution to national and international environmental policy on nuclear issues

The Office of the Supervising Scientist (oss) provides advice to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage and other parts of the Department on nuclear issues. oss also contributes to the development of national and international environmental policy on nuclear issues.

An oss officer represents the Department of the Environment and Heritage on the Visiting Ships Panel (Nuclear). The Panel is an interdepartmental committee, chaired by the Royal Australian Navy, which advises the Minister for Defence on policy and technical issues associated with visiting nuclear powered warships. During 1999-2000, the Visiting Ships Panel (Nuclear) sought information on the capabilities of the Environmental Radioactivity Laboratory at eriss. The Panel was considering whether the laboratory could be added to the list of analytical facilities which provide support to Visiting Ships Panel (Nuclear) programmes. The requested information was provided and negotiations are continuing.

An oss officer attended a week long meeting in April at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria to assist in drafting an IAEA Safety Guide on the Management of Waste from the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores. The officer was invited by the IAEA to work on the draft Safety Guide for the second time after having attended a similar meeting in 1998-1999. All costs associated with the meeting were borne by the IAEA.

An officer from oss represented Australia at two meetings of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development/Nuclear Energy Agency/International Atomic Energy Agency joint working party preparing a document on the remediation of world uranium mining and milling facilities. The Australian representative was a leader for one of the working groups. The final report is due to be completed and published in December 2000.


6. Administrative arrangements

6.1 Organisational structure and staffing

The Supervising Scientist is a statutory position created under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978. The position is currently held by Dr Arthur Johnston. Offices are located in Darwin and Jabiru with two liaison and corporate support staff based in Canberra. Following a decision by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage that the uranium mining activities of the Supervising Scientist should be focused in the Northern Territory, a review of the structure of the organisation was undertaken.

The Office of the Supervising Scientist in Darwin was strengthened by the relocation of positions from Canberra. The position of Assistant Secretary, oss, located in Darwin was filled, as were other positions in the Darwin office. These relocation and recruitment initiatives have resulted in an increase in staff in the Darwin office.

eriss commenced its relocation to Darwin where the National Centre for Tropical Wetlands Research (nctwr) has been established. The location of the more senior research scientist positions from Jabiru to Darwin will facilitate improved interaction with the Australian scientific community and assist in attracting and retaining high quality research staff. The number of eriss staff based in Jabiru will ultimately be reduced to about five individuals required for regular field work and liaison with Aboriginal people. These changes have already enhanced the coordination of supervision and research functions of the Supervising Scientist.

Towards the end of the financial year, Canberra-based Science Group programmes not associated with the core functions of the Supervising Scientist in the Alligator Rivers Regions were transferred to other groups within the Department of the Environment and Heritage. These programmes were part of the Science and the Environment branch of the Supervising Scientist Group. The organisational structure of the Supervising Scientist is shown in figure 6.1. Staffing numbers, locations and resources are given in table 6.1.

Fig 6.1 Organisation chart

organisation chart

 

Table 6.1 Resources
Budget (1999-2000) $ 8.228 million
PBS Output Group
1.1.12 $0.921 million
1.4.9 $0.433 million
1.5.6 $0.895 million
1.6.5 $1.328 million
1.7.3 $4.651 million
Actual staff (as at 30 June 1999)
Canberra 3
Darwin 3
Jabiru 33
Total 39

6.2 Legislative and institutional arrangements relating to uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region

6.2.1 Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee

The Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee is established under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 to facilitate communication between community, government and industry stakeholders. The Committee is a forum for exchange of information and policy consultation on environmental issues associated with uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region.

Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee meetings were held after the Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs) of Ranger, Nabarlek and Jabiluka in August and December 1999. Some of the topics discussed included: results of the EPRs; environmental monitoring results particularly water management systems at Ranger and Jabiluka; the progress of Ranger lease negotiations and revised Environmental Requirements; World Heritage issues such as the Independent Scientific Panel review of the Supervising Scientist Report 138; the portal and decline development at Jabiluka; progress on the implementation of the Kakadu Region Social Impact Study; rehabilitation of the South Alligator Valley mines including exposed tailings beside the Gunlom Road; Minesite Technical Committee meeting issues; assessment of rehabilitation of Nabarlek, and; the establishment of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

6.2.2 Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee

The Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee, established under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978, examines research needs of the region, recommends research programmes, and examines methods for the efficient coordination and integration of research. It meets once each year.

The sixth meeting of Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee was held in December 1999. Discussions took place on the continuing work of the Independent Scientific Panel (ISP) for the World Heritage Committee to resolve outstanding scientific issues at Jabiluka, including a visit by the ISP in 2000. The research priorities for eriss were reviewed, including; assessment of rehabilitation at Nabarlek through a soil survey for revegetation; development of a radiological exposure model; erosion survey, and; continuation of a joint project with Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy on uranium isotopes in groundwater. Further research at Ranger reviewed included; examination of the areas of radiation protection of people; ecosystem protection, and; final landform options and rehabilitation. At Jabiluka, further research reviewed was the continuation of a study on concentrations of radionuclides and sediment transport in Swift Creek. A radiometric survey was planned for Koongarra and hazard reduction and safety issues in the South Alligator Valley were discussed. ERA's research programme for 1999-2000 was discussed including the decommissioning phase of Ranger and addressing the requirements from the Environmental Impact Statement, Public Environment Report and commitments to the World Heritage Committee for Jabiluka.

6.2.3 Environmental Requirements and other requirements

New Ranger Section 41 Authority and Environmental Requirements

A new Section 41 Authority under the Commonwealth Atomic Energy Act 1953 was conferred on ERA for a period of 26 years commencing on 9 January 2000. The revised Environmental Requirements for Ranger uranium mine also came into effect on this date as part of the Authority. The revised Environmental Requirements were developed through a four-year consultative process involving the Supervising Scientist, Department of Industry, Science and Resources, Northern Land Council, Northern Territory Government and Energy Resources of Australia. The Authority and Environmental Requirements are also incorporated into an agreement under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, and as part of the lease renewal this agreement was required to be renegotiated. The agreement has been extended until the renegotiations process can be completed by stakeholders.

The Environmental Requirements, in addition to being attached to the Commonwealth Government Authority, are largely incorporated into the Ranger General Authorisation issued under the Northern Territory Uranium Mining Environment Control Act 1979. This is the principal legislation under which the Northern Territory Government carries out day to day regulation of the mine. A revised Ranger General Authorisation was issued on 13 March 2000 to encompass the new Environmental Requirements.

The revised Ranger Environmental Requirements are a significant improvement on the previous Environmental Requirements. They are clear and comprehensive, setting out environmental objectives that provide world best practice in protecting the environment surrounding the Ranger uranium mine. The Environmental Requirements set out Primary Environmental Objectives that include protection of the attributes for which Kakadu National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage list and the protection of Ramsar listed wetlands. The Environmental Requirements are comprehensive in scope, addressing all environmental issues. The Environmental Requirements reflect current regulatory techniques and place a greater onus on the mining company to demonstrate that it is meeting the Primary Environmental Objectives whilst providing more flexibility in the way in which these objectives can be met.

In the new Environmental Requirements for Ranger, water quality forms an integral part of the Secondary Environmental Objectives. Of particular significance is that the new Environmental Requirements, in comparison to the previous ones, do not categorise mine waters on the basis of source but rather the focus is placed on the water quality. The new Environmental Requirements interpretive framework establishes that the Supervising Scientist will determine background values for key variables in water quality and communicate these values to the mining company and other major stakeholders. Information for this framework is gained from the long-term and continuing record of monitoring of Magela Creek upstream and downstream of Ranger mine. In addition, the development of a National Water Quality Strategy (section 5.1) provides the philosophy of approach by which change in water quality from baseline conditions can be recognised and evaluated.

A Supervising Scientist Report 151 has been published in accordance with Ranger Environmental Requirement 19.2 entitled The chemistry of Magela Creek: A baseline for assessing change downstream of Ranger. The report assesses baseline water quality in Magela Creek necessary for the Supervising Scientist to define ‘water quality trigger levels', which are related to baseline water quality. This work is required to implement certain provisions of the revised Ranger Environmental Requirements 3.3.

Jabiluka Requirements of the ISP

In April 2000, following a request from the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, the Minister for Industry, Science and Resources required the implementation of the recommendations contained in Supervising Scientist Report 138, and in the Independent Scientific Panel review of that report ‘Review of an Independent Scientific Panel of the scientific issues associated with the proposed mining of uranium at Jabiluka in relation to the state of conservation of Kakadu National Park'. A combined list of these recommendations is provided in Appendix 2. ERA agreed to implement these recommendations in addition to the Environmental Impact Statement and Public Environment Report Requirements.

Recommendations 1-7 relate to aspects of the stochastic water balance model which should be the basis for the ongoing development and implementation of the Jabiluka Water Management System. These recommendations address shortcomings in the earlier water balance modelling by ERA to ensure that a high level of environmental protection is achieved.

Recommendation 8 requires increased pond evaporation rather than enhanced evaporation in the ventilation system, as proposed by ERA, to ensure total containment of all contaminated water within the Total Containment Zone.

Recommendation 9 is linked to recommendation 8 and arose from a consideration of the means by which a degree of control could be introduced into the water management system if enhanced evaporation in the ventilation system of the mine is not included in the final design of the Jabiluka project.

Recommendations 10, 11 and 12 relate to the structural integrity of the water retention ponds and arose from assessment of risks associated with dam failure from; (a) overtopping of the pond if the various contingency measures fail; (b) static failure of the embankment, and; (c) the occurrence of a severe earthquake.

Recommendations 13 and 14 require that the Jabiluka Water Management System be under periodic review and that any recommendations arising from the Supervising Scientist's assessment of such reviews will be implemented by ERA.

Recommendation 15 requires that the additional tailings silos required to ensure that 100% of tailings are disposed of underground be located in the Kombolgie sandstone to the east of the orebody as it is a more suitable geological formation than the schists in the vicinity of the orebody and to the west.

Recommendation 16 aims to ensure that the ultimate tailings disposal strategy addresses current uncertainties with the objective to ensure that Jabiluka tailings pose no significant risk to the environment for at least 10 000 years after disposal.

6.2.4 Ministerial directions

There were no ministerial directions issued to the Supervising Scientist under section 7 of the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 in 1999-2000.

The Uranium Mining (Environment Control) Act 1979 provides for the Northern Territory Minister to direct the mining company to undertake specific practices. In December 1999 the required wet season collection and analysis of mussels by ERA from Mudginberri Billabong was unable to occur. ERA advised that the traditional owners did not grant permission for sampling. ERA sought to amend the Ranger Authorisation to remove this requirement in order to avoid a technical breach, however the oss suggested that the NT Minister for Resource Development issue a Direction to ERA not to collect mussels from Mudginberri Billabong this season. Subsequently, the traditional owners granted permission but this came after rising water levels prevented safe collection of freshwater mussels and sampling did not occur.

6.2.5 Reporting of mine events and monitoring results

In a Memorandum of Understanding between the Commonwealth Government and the Northern Territory Government, the Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy requires mining companies to notify the Supervising Scientist, Northern Land Council and Department of Industry, Science and Resources immediately of any events or incidents having the potential to cause:

All monitoring programmes and related data reports required under the Ranger General Authorisation, issued under the Northern Territory Uranium Mining (Environment Control) Act 1979, are copied to the Supervising Scientist for independent assessment. This includes monitoring data from the Ranger mine and the Jabiluka site. Other information is monitored at intervals ranging from daily to annually, depending on its environmental significance, the risk of rapid change and the potential for adverse environmental impact. Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy undertakes a check monitoring programme which is reported formally every six months, and also reviewed by the Supervising Scientist. The Supervising Scientist reports annually to Parliament, twice yearly to Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee and may prepare ad hoc reports on significant events such as the tailings water leak detailed in 2.1.1.

6.3 Reporting and publications

Results of research and investigations undertaken by the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist (eriss) and the Office of the Supervising Scientist (oss) are disseminated by publications in external journals, and in-house reports. During 1999-2000, 9 reports were published in the Supervising Scientist Report series, 18 Internal Reports were prepared, 48 papers were published in scientific literature and 26 national and international conference and workshop presentations were given.

In addition, upward of 200 new web pages have been written for Supervising Scientist's section of the new Environment Australia internet site.

6.4 Information Systems

The Supervising Scientist Group uses a Windows NT 4 network with one domain in Darwin and another in Jabiru. There are 2 domain controllers and 2 additional file servers in Jabiru, and 2 domain controllers in Darwin. There are about 30 Gbytes of data stored on these machines.

Connection between Jabiru and Darwin is via a 128 kbps frame relay to Canberra and thence through a 64 kbps frame relay to Darwin shared with Parks Australia North. These links have been heavily loaded for some time. The transfer of 12 staff from Jabiru to Darwin has increased this load substantially.

The loss of a temporary IT staff member has meant that there has been little development of the system over the past year. A second domain controller was installed in Darwin and Windows 2000 and Office 2000 have been installed on several machines on an experimental basis. Further developments will depend on the result of discussion with the recently appointed outsourcer. It is likely that the next year will see the many older workstations upgraded, Windows NT 4 network changed to Novell Netware and Microsoft Exchange mail server changed to Novell Groupwise.

The eriss library in located in Jabiru and provides library services to Supervising Scientist staff based in Jabiru and Darwin. The library is open to the public by appointment.

The subject matter of the collection reflects the research interests of the Supervising Scientist. The collection includes 11 500 books, reports and audio-visual items (407 added 1999-2000), and scientific journals (66 current subscriptions).

The library in-house database, ARRI, dedicated to material published on the Alligator Rivers Region, now contains 2840 records (409 added 1999-2000).

In April 2000 the Library established a database to index newspaper clippings of interest to the staff of the Supervising Scientist. This database currently contains 730 entries.


Appendix A

Recommendations of the Supervising Scientist Report 153,
Investigation of tailings water leak at Ranger uranium mine
No. Recommendation
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.
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.
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.
4 ERA should take immediate steps to put in place an employee training programme 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.
5 The Supervising Scientist should offer to assist ERA in the above training programme. 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.
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.
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.
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.

9 The statutory environmental monitoring programme 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.
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.
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.
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.
13 The Supervising Scientist should ensure that there is an adequate and independent on-site audit programme related to potential off-site environmental consequences arising from operation of the Ranger mine and mill.
14 The Supervising Scientist should develop and implement a routine environmental monitoring programme 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 programme could also provide support to the on-site audit programme referred to in Recommendation 13.
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.
16 The Mine Site 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.
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 Deportment 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.
Supervising Scientist Report 153 is available at www.environment.gov.au/ssg/ranger-leak

 

Appendix B

Additional recommendations arising from the report of the Supervising Scientist to the World Heritage Committee and the review of the Independent Scientific Panel of ICSU

A consolidated list of the recommendations derived from the Supervising Scientist report SSR138 to the World Heritage Committee and the ISP response.

Hydrological modelling of the Jabiluka Water Management System

1. The Oenpelli rainfall record for the years 1917 to 1998 (and any subsequent extension of these data approved by the Supervising Scientist) will be used for estimating the 1:10 000 AEP annual rainfall and for other hydrological modelling for the Jabiluka project.

2. Subject to final agreement between the Supervising Scientist and the Independent Scientific Panel of the International Committee of Scientific Unions, values in the Oenpelli rainfall record will be adjusted upwards by 5% for the purposes of hydrological modelling of the Jabiluka water management system.

3. In all future hydrological modelling of the Jabiluka water management system, the pan factors proposed by the Supervising Scientist in 1987, or any subsequent revision of these data as approved by the Supervising Authority or the Minister responsible for administering the Atomic Energy Act 1953 with the advice of the Supervising Scientist, will be used.

4. An inverse linear relationship between evaporation and rainfall will be incorporated in future water management modelling of the Jabiluka project.

5. The 6-minute PMP intensity estimate adopted by ERA in the final design of the Jabiluka project will be 1 380 mm. The full set of PMP values provided by the Supervising Scientist in his report SSR140 will be used, where appropriate, in the detailed design of the Jabiluka project.

6. Hydrological modelling of the water management system at Jabiluka will use a stochastic water balance model. This model will incorporate the following characteristics:
- Water balance calculations on a daily basis
- The use of a stochastically generated daily rainfall record
- The use of a stochastically generated monthly evaporation record
- The use of a realistic distribution of evaporative losses in the ventilation system throughout the year
- Runoff coefficients and/or a soil water capacity model derived from modelling of the Ranger water management system.

7. The hydrological model will be used to be make estimates of the storage capacity required as a function of exceedance probability over the life of the mine under current climatic conditions. The design criterion adopted for the storage pond volume will be that the probability that the pond volume will be exceeded over the life of the mine is 1 in 10 000.

Design of the water management system

8. In the detailed design of the Jabiluka water management system, increased pond evaporation will be used rather then enhanced evaporation in the ventilation system. In implementing this requirement, ERA will carefully model evaporation in the ventilation system as a result of dust suppression procedures to achieve the optimum water management system.

9. The water retention pond will be partitioned, to the satisfaction of the Supervising Authority or the Minister responsible for administering the Atomic Energy Act 1953 with the advice of the Supervising Scientist, into an appropriate number of compartments with connecting spill-ways and a water pumping system to enable control of evaporative losses and to minimise the risk to the environment arising from structural failure of the pond embankments.

10. The water retention pond will be designed with a safety factor of at least 1.7 taking into account conditions that would lead to static failure of the embankments.

11. Prior to completion of the pond design, ERA will commission a hazard analysis for earthquakes that takes into account not only local and regional earthquakes but also distant large earthquakes in the Banda Sea. The water retention pond will be designed such that the probability of failure due to the occurrence of an earthquake will be less than 5 in 10 000 over the life of the mine.

12. The water retention pond will be constructed with a properly engineered spillway to ensure that the pond structure would not fail when the overtopping height is reached.

Review of the water management system

13. Following commencement of operations at the Jabiluka mine, ERA will submit, not less often than once every five years, a report to the Supervising Scientist and the Supervising Authority that contains a review of the operation of the water management system. This report will include a review of all hydrological data obtained following the commencement of mining, a comparison with the corresponding data used in the final design of facilities, a review of the most recent climate change data and modelling, and an assessment of the implications of these new data on the future operation of the water management system.

14. ERA will implement any modifications to the water management system recommended by the Supervising Authority or the Minister responsible for administering the Atomic Energy Act 1953 with the advice of the Supervising Scientist, resulting from the assessment of this review to ensure that the original design criteria for the system will continue to apply throughout the life of the mine.

Tailings disposal

15. The additional tailings silos, required to ensure the placement of all tailings underground, will be excavated in the Kombolgie sandstone east of the orebody.

Groundwater modelling

16. The ground water modelling presented by ERA in satisfaction of Requirement 2 of the Minister for Resources and Energy's Requirements for implementation of the Jabiluka Mill Alternative will take into account appropriate studies on tailings/cement/water/rock interaction studies, will use Monte Carlo (or similar) methods to provide probabilistic estimates on the movement of contaminants in groundwater from the tailings repositories, and will present calculations extending over a period of 10 000 years.