Protection of the environment near the Ranger uranium mine
Supervising Scientist Report 139
Johnston A & Needham S
Supervising Scientist, 1999
ISBN 0 642 24342 5
For almost twenty years, uranium has been mined and milled at the Ranger Mine within an area that is surrounded by, but does not form part of, Kakadu National Park. The national and international importance of Kakadu has been recognised by its inclusion on the Register of the National Estate and its inscription on the World Heritage List. The flood plain areas within Kakadu are recognised as one of Australia's Wetlands of International Importance listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. Much of the land in the region, including the land on which the Ranger deposits were found, has been recognised as part of the traditional estate of the Aboriginal people of the region. For these reasons, operation of the mine has been subject to a rigorous system of regulation and supervision, a system that is unequalled anywhere in Australia and probably anywhere else in the world.
Throughout the operational period of the Ranger Mine, the operating company, Energy Resources of Australia, has conducted an environmental monitoring program specified by the Northern Territory Government in consultation with the Supervising Scientist. In addition, the Supervising Scientist has carried out scientific research to enable this monitoring program to be continuously improved. The research program has, for example, enabled the introduction of biological monitoring methods and has enabled a clear distinction to be drawn between natural and mining induced contributions to radon and radon progeny radiation exposure. The research program has also provided data that can be used directly for monitoring purposes.
This report has been prepared to provide a summary of all of the monitoring data obtained in these programs and, on the basis of these data, to provide an assessment of the extent to which the environment of the region, particularly Kakadu National Park, has been protected during the operation of the Ranger Mine. We thank Energy Resources of Australia for the provision of its monitoring data and the staff of the Supervising Scientist for providing the results of their research programs. It is our hope that the assessment provided in this report will provide a degree of reassurance to those in the Australian community who are concerned that the conduct of uranium mining at Ranger may cause harm to the people or the wetlands of Kakadu National Park.
Arthur Johnston and Stewart Needham
Supervising Scientist Group