Supervising Scientist Annual Report 2002 - 2003: Statutory Committees
Supervising Scientist, Darwin, 2003
ISBN 0 642 24383 2
ISSN 0 158-4030
4 - Statutory Committees
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.
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:
- Reports on the outcomes of investigations into specific events, including the radiological incident at Ranger in November 2002, and the process water leak that occurred on 5 September 2002;
- Outcome of investigations into allegations made by Mr Geoffrey Kyle, a former ERA employee;
- Outcomes of environmental audits and assessments of Ranger, Jabiluka and Nabarlek;
- Progress by ERA towards ISO 14001 compliance;
- Outcomes of Minesite Technical Committee (MTC) meetings;
- The Senate Inquiry into the Environmental Regulation of Uranium Mining;
- Progress of the development of long-term water management options for Jabiluka;
- Status of the NT Government's review (the 'Lea Report') of the regulation of uranium mining in the Northern Territory;
- Radiation health issues;
- Progress of rehabilitation of abandoned minesites in the South Alligator Valley;
- World Heritage issues;
- Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee (ARRTC) issues;
- Status of the Kakadu Regional Social Impact Study (KRSIS).
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:
- independent scientific members with specific expertise (including ARRTC's chair), appointed following nomination by the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technical Societies (FASTS);
- representatives of the Northern Land Council, the Northern Territory Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd, Pioneer International Ltd, and Parks Australia North;
- the Supervising Scientist.
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:
- Past, current and proposed research conducted by eriss, ERA and Parks Australia North (including a review of mine-related research conducted between 1978 and 2002);
- Monitoring being conducted by DBIRD, ERA and eriss;
- Jabiluka water management;
- The status of South Alligator Valley rehabilitation;
- The Supervising Scientist's report on 'Investigation of the stockpiling and reporting incidents at Ranger and Jabiluka in 2002';
- The Senate Inquiry on the Environmental Regulation of Uranium Mining
- The Landscape Scale Analysis project;
- Communication with Traditional Owners;
- Social issues.
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.
|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
- Letter of Transmittal
- Supervising Scientist's Overview
- 1 - Introduction
- 2 - Environmental Assessments of Uranium Mines
- 3 - Environmental Research and Monitoring
- 4 - Statutory Committees
- 5 - National Centre for Tropical Wetland Research
- 6 - Communication Liaison
- 7 - Administrative Arrangements
- Appendix 1 - List of Publications 2002-03
- Appendix 2 - Presentations to Conferences and Symposia
- List of Tables
- List of Figures