2 Environmental assessments of uranium mines
Supervising Scientist, Darwin, 2005
ISBN 0 642 24395 6
ISSN 0 158-4030
The processes used by the Supervising Scientist to supervise uranium mining operations in the Alligator Rivers Region may be broadly categorised as: participating in Northern Territory regulatory processes, and audit and inspection. The outcomes of these activities are considered by the Supervising Scientist together with environmental monitoring data and other information to draw conclusions regarding the effectiveness of environmental management at uranium mining sites.
Minesite Technical Committees (MTCs) have been established for Ranger, Jabiluka and Nabarlek. The MTC meetings provide an effective forum for stakeholders, including the Supervising Scientist, to discuss technical environmental management issues, especially in connection with the assessment of applications and reports submitted by mining companies for approval under Northern Territory legislation. Each MTC is made up of representatives from the NT Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development (NTDBIRD) which provides the Chair for the MTC, the Supervising Scientist, the Northern Land Council and the relevant mining company. Other organisations or experts may be co-opted from time to time as required to assist MTC members. The summary record of each MTC meeting held in 2004–05 was provided to the Environment Centre of the Northern Territory for information.
The Supervising Scientist, in consultation with the applicable MTCs, has developed and implemented a programme of inspections and environmental audits at Ranger, Jabiluka and Nabarlek.
The Routine Periodic Inspections (RPI) take place monthly at Ranger and quarterly at Jabiluka and are intended to provide a snapshot of environmental management as well as an opportunity for the inspection team to discuss environmental management issues with staff on site. These discussions include any unplanned events or reportable incidents and any associated follow-up actions. The inspection team is made up of representatives from oss, DBIRD and the NLC.
The Environmental Audits are conducted by a team of qualified audit staff from oss, DBIRD and the NLC and are undertaken in accordance with the requirements of the ISO14001 standard. The Ranger and Jabiluka programme of audits is designed to cover all major aspects of environmental management over a three year cycle. The Annual Environmental Audit occurs in April or May to assess each site under end-of-wet season conditions as well as allowing enough time for the audit report to be completed and tabled at the mid-year meeting of the Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee (ARRAC). A follow-up review of the audits is undertaken in November each year with the outcomes reported to the December meeting of ARRAC. The Nabarlek programme is slightly different in that an inspection is carried out early in the dry season and the Annual Environmental Audit is conducted in November.The audit outcomes are described later in this Annual Report.
The general Authorisations for the Ranger mine and the Jabiluka project are issued under the Northern Territory Mining Management Act 2001 and are essentially the same as those operating under the previous Uranium Mining (Environment Control) Act1979. The Act provides for alterations to the Authorisation to be issued by the Northern Territory Government. The Authorisation requires that ERA seek approval for certain activities from the Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development (DBIRD). Depending upon the nature of the application, approvals may only be issued after referral to oss and the NLC for comment. This is the primary mechanism whereby the Supervising Scientist participates in the regulatory processes of the Northern Territory Government regulators.
The main reports and plans that were assessed by the Supervising Scientist during 2004–05 included:
- Ranger Amended Plan of Rehabilitation No. 30;
- Ranger Mine Water Management System Operation Manual;
- Ranger Mine Water Management System Operation Report;
- Ranger Mine and Jabiluka Project Annual Environmental Reports;
- Ranger Mine Annual Tailings Dam Inspection Report;
- Ranger Mine and Jabiluka Radiation Protection Monitoring Program Quarterly
and Annual Reports;
- Jabiluka Mine Development Project Plan of Rehabilitation No. 8;
- ERA monthly environmental monitoring data and quarterly reports submitted in accordance with the General Authorisations;
- Applications by the mining companies for amendments to the General Authorisations;
- Assessment reports from DBIRD – Environmental Surveillance Monitoring in the Alligator Rivers Region Reports SMR 47 and SMR 48.