Supervising Scientist Report 141
Jones RN, Abbs DJ & Hennessy KJ
Supervising Scientist, 1999
ISBN 0 642 24344 1
At the twenty-second meeting of the World Heritage Committee, held in Paris from 22 to 27 June 1998, a decision was reached that the Chair of the Committee should lead a mission to Australia and Kakadu National Park to assess any ascertained or potential threats to the World Heritage values of Kakadu National Park that might arise from the proposal to mine uranium at Jabiluka. The visit of the Mission took place from 26 October 1998 to 1 November 1998.
The report of the Mission was submitted to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee at its meeting held in Kyoto, Japan, on 27-28 November 1998. Following consideration of the report, the Bureau made recommendations that were considered by the World Heritage Committee at its meeting from 30 November 1998 to 5 December 1998.
The report noted 'severe ascertained and potential dangers to the cultural and natural values of Kakadu National Park posed primarily by the proposal for uranium mining and milling at Jabiluka' and recommended that the mining and milling of uranium should not proceed. In the case of threats to the natural values of the Park, the mission placed very significant weight on 'the serious concerns expressed by some of Australia's most eminent scientists as to the degree of scientific uncertainties relating to the Jabiluka mine design, tailings disposal and possible impact on catchment processes'. The concerns cited were made in a submission by Wasson, White, Mackey and Fleming (Wasson et al 1998, Appendix 2).
Because the Australian authorities had not had sufficient time to respond to the report, the World Heritage Committee made no firm decision of the future status of Kakadu at the November 1998 meeting. In its decision, the Committee requested that the Supervising Scientist conduct a full review of the areas of scientific uncertainty. The issues specified were hydrological modelling, prediction and impact of severe weather events, storage of uranium ore on the surface and the long-term storage of mine tailings.
The Supervising Scientist's response to that request has been published as a Supervising Scientist Series report:
Johnston A & Prendergast JB 1999. Assessment of the Jabiluka Project: Report of the Supervising Scientist to the World Heritage Committee. Supervising Scientist Report 138, Supervising Scientist, Canberra.
In preparing this report, the Supervising Scientist has drawn on the broad range of expertise available within his own organisation. In addition, given the intense interest in the World Heritage issue and the need for absolute transparency, he has sought independent expert advice from a number of scientific institutes within Australia. Scientists from the Bureau of Meteorology, the University of Melbourne, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the University of New South Wales prepared reports on specific topics at the request of the Supervising Scientist. These reports have been published as separate Supervising Scientist reports:
Bureau of Meteorology 1999. Hydrometeorological analyses relevant to Jabiluka. Supervising Scientist Report 140, Supervising Scientist, Canberra.
Jones RN, Abbs DJ & Hennessy KJ 1999. Climate change analysis relevant to Jabiluka. Supervising Scientist Report 141, Supervising Scientist, Canberra.
Chiew FHS & Wang QJ 1999. Hydrological analysis relevant to surface water storage at Jabiluka. Supervising Scientist Report 142, Supervising Scientist, Canberra.
Kalf FRP & Dudgeon CR 1999. Analysis of long-term groundwater dispersal of contaminants from proposed Jabiluka Mine tailings repositories. Supervising Scientist Report 143, Supervising Scientist, Canberra.
Included in the series is Protection of the environment near the Ranger uranium mine (Johnston & Needham 1999, Supervising Scientist Report 139), which summarises the extent to which the environment of the region has been protected throughout the period of operations at the Ranger uranium mine. This report was presented to the Mission when it visited Kakadu and subsequently to the World Heritage Committee as part of the Supervising Scientist's report.