Supervising Scientist Division

Supervising Scientist Annual Report 2002 - 2003: Statutory Committees

Supervising Scientist, Darwin, 2003
ISBN 0 642 24383 2
ISSN 0 158-4030

4 - Statutory Committees

4.1 Introduction

The Supervising Scientist Division participates in, and provides secretariat and administrative support to, two statutory committees. These committees play important roles in relation to facilitating discussion and consultation on environmental protection issues.

4.2 Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee

The Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee (ARRAC) exists under sections 16-21 of the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 to facilitate communication between community, government and industry stakeholders on environmental issues associated with uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region.

ARRAC is chaired by Professor Charles Webb, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Higher Education and Research) at the Northern Territory University.

ARRAC provides an opportunity for stakeholders to exchange relevant information and views on significant policy issues relating to protection and restoration of the environment from the effects of uranium mining operations.

An important function of ARRAC is to facilitate transparency in the processes applied to protect the special environment in this region from the potential impacts of uranium mining.

All material provided to ARRAC becomes public information. Disclosure of environmental performance information is a way of building trust within the group, by reducing the potential for misinterpretation of information. Information that is regularly provided to stakeholders through ARRAC meetings includes summary and interpretation of monitoring data, periodic environmental reports from the mining companies, and audit outcomes for the mines.

A link to papers from previous meetings is available on the ARRAC web site www.deh.gov.au/ssd/communication/committees/arrac/index.html

ARRAC met twice in 2002-03: 20 August 2002 in Jabiru and 10 December 2002 in Darwin.

Issues discussed at the 2002-03 meetings included:

4.3 Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee

The Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee (ARRTC) exists under sections 22A-22F of the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978. The primary aim of the Committee is to ensure that the quality of the science used in the research into, and assessment of, the protection of the environment from the impacts of uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region is of an appropriately high standard. This involves review of research activities by eriss, ERA, and other organisations. It also involves review of the quality of the science used by oss and DBIRD to assess and approve proposals by uranium mining companies in the Alligator Rivers Region. ARRTC reports openly, independently and without restriction.

A link to papers from previous meetings is available on the ARRTC website www.deh.gov.au/ssd/communication/committees/arrtc/index.html

ARRTC is chaired by Professor Barry Hart, Director of the Water Studies Centre at Monash University.

The function and membership of the Committee was revised during 2001-02 as a result of recommendations arising from the review of the Jabiluka project by the Independent Science Panel (ISP) of the International Council of Science Unions. Those revisions resulted in membership consisting of:

Figure 4.1: ARRTC members inspecting a monitoring point on Magela Creek

Figure 4.1: ARRTC members inspecting a monitoring point on Magela Creek

During 2002-03, the Hon Dr David Kemp MP, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, wrote to a range of environmental NGOs seeking a number of nominations of individuals with appropriate scientific qualifications and standing from which the Minister would consider appointing one to ARRTC to represent conservation NGOs. The National Environmental Consultative Forum (NECF) replied with a single nomination. The NECF and Minister Kemp have subsequently exchanged correspondence on this matter and discussed the issue at the annual NECF meeting. The issue remains unresolved at the end of 2002-03.

ARRTC met twice during 2002-03: in Jabiru on 9-10 September 2002, and in Darwin on 17-19 February 2003.

ARRTC considered and discussed a range of issues at the meetings, including:

At the meeting held in February 2003, ARRTC scientific members drafted a series of high level Key Knowledge Needs (see Table 4.1) based on their own assessment of the existing body of scientific knowledge on mining in the Alligator Rivers Region and issues that are likely to become more important as the Ranger mine moves towards eventual closure and rehabilitation. The overall objective adopted by ARRTC scientific members was the protection of the Alligator Rivers Region.

The development of the Key Knowledge Needs was based around the twin themes of mine operations (the 'now') and mine closure (the 'future'), together with consideration of knowledge management and communication needs. These Key Knowledge Needs are an important input into prioritising and planning future research activities.

Table 4.1: Key Knowledge Needs identified by ARRTC
Key Knowledge Need Issues
Mine operations (‘now’) within a risk framework Reassess and quantify contaminant movement within biophysical pathways (concentration, species, loads, dynamics)

Contaminant movements through groundwater pathways from current operations

Linking ecotoxicological knowledge and biophysical pathways (first flush, terrestrial, food, sediments)

Human health risks associated with biophysical pathways (bush tucker, bioaccumulation, drinking water)

Radiological effects on people (source terms, dose assessment parameters, sampling and analysis)

Linking of conceptual models with onsite management (adaptive, not operationalising the science)
Mine closure (‘future’) Completion criteria, shared reclamation objectives and indicators of success

Ecosystem establishment techniques (landform, vegetation, fauna, hydrology, geochemistry)

Sustainability of rehabilitation (weeds, fire, nutrients, resilience, extreme events)

Radon emanation and bioaccumulation of radionuclides from final landform

Adequate baseline data to underpin indicators of success (eg hydrology of Gulungul)

Demonstrated ability to reconstruct an ecosystem (Nabarlek)
Knowledge management and communication Between and within research providers (past, present and into the future)

Uncertainty analysis of data (eg risk assessment) and communicating

Development of an integrated framework (landscape scale analysis)

Effective communication of science to stakeholders