Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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.
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
23 April 2002
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today released a report by the Office of the Supervising Scientist (OSS) following an investigation into the mismanagement of a low-grade ore stockpile at the Ranger uranium mine and the delayed reporting of environmental monitoring data at Jabiluka.
Dr Kemp noted from the report that even though the Commonwealth's Environmental Requirements were not breached, Energy Resources of Australia's (ERA's) internal management processes had failed.
The report revealed that the highest concentration of uranium measured downstream of Ranger and Jabiluka was 0.25 parts per billion and 0.05 parts per billion respectively. The Australian Drinking Water Standard is 20.0 parts per billion, the environmental protection limit is 5.8 parts per billion and the concentration of uranium in the Jabiru town water supply can exceed 6.0 parts per billion from time to time.
"Fortunately, ERA's backup systems did their job and the uranium levels entering the Park were always at least 80 times better than the Australian Drinking Water Standard," Dr Kemp said. "I am glad the Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation, the organisation that represents the traditional owners of the Ranger and Jabiluka sites, have communicated that they are comfortable with this.
"However, given the importance of protecting the people and the World Heritage Areas surrounding these mine sites, I expect nothing short of best practice in environmental management. ERA will clearly have to lift its game.
"I welcome the fact that ERA has now agreed to upgrade its environmental management systems at Ranger and Jabiluka so that they are compliant with the international best practice standards for environmental management, (ISO14001*) by July 2003, and certified against ISO14001 by July 2005," Dr Kemp said.
ERA has also committed to the following measures:
In addition, to ensure prompt and accessible communication to all stakeholders and especially to the traditional owners, the Minister has asked the Supervising Scientist to place monitoring information from Ranger and Jabiluka on his web site as soon as it becomes available.
"What will be important from ERA is effective action," Dr Kemp said. "This is the only way that the Australian public and the local Aboriginal traditional owners can be assured that their environment is safe."
Obtaining ISO14001 certification means rebuilding the environmental management systems at Ranger and Jabiluka from the ground up to ensure they meet the most rigorous internationally recognised standards.
"ERA has already implemented new monitoring systems which have picked up higher than expected concentrations of uranium inside the mine site. This is being investigated and stakeholders have been informed. While preliminary information indicates that there has been no effect outside the mine site, it is important to keep stakeholders informed in an accurate and timely fashion," Dr Kemp said.
"I have also asked the Supervising Scientist to work with the Northern Territory regulators to tighten the enforceability of environment protection protocols."
Although the regulation of the operations of the mine rests with the Northern Territory Labor Government, Dr Kemp signalled his willingness to use Commonwealth powers if necessary.
"If these mistakes continue, I will be discussing the issue with the Commonwealth Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources," he warned. "If necessary, I will ask the Minister to take action to require ERA to improve its performance."
Dr Kemp noted that although the Supervising Scientist, who is part of the Environment and Heritage portfolio, is not the regulator of Ranger or Jabiluka, he has worked with the Northern Territory regulators, the Northern Land Council and ERA to develop strong environmental protection protocols and requirements.
"These requirements are far more rigorous than at other mines in the Northern Territory, and go beyond Northern Territory law," he said. "Had ERA implemented those protocols, the incidents at Ranger and Jabiluka would not have occurred. The Commonwealth will not accept anything less than full implementation of these new measures.
"The ball is now firmly in the mining company's court to demonstrate to the Government and the community that it can meet the environmental standards and level of community engagement that is expected from it," Dr Kemp said.
Dr Kemp also expressed concern over more recent issues that this report has not covered.
"I have requested that the OSS conduct a full investigation and provide me with another report dealing with these latest allegations and whether further actions should be taken," he said.
The report may be downloaded from the Supervising Scientist web site at www.ea.gov.au/ssd/index.html or copies may be obtained by calling (08) 8982 9117.
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400