Territory Stories

Assessment of the Jabiluka Project : report of the Supervising Scientist to the World Heritage Committee



Assessment of the Jabiluka Project : report of the Supervising Scientist to the World Heritage Committee


Johnston, A.; Prendergast, J. B.; Bridgewater, Peter


E-Publications; E-Books; PublicationNT; Supervising Scientist Report; 138




Alligator Rivers Region

Table of contents

Main report--Appendix 2 of the Main Report. Submission to the Mission of the World Heritage Committee by some Australian Scientists ... --Attachment A. Johnston A. and Needham S. 1999. Protection of the environment near the Ranger uranium mine--Attachment B. Bureau of Meteorology 1999. Hydrometeorological analysis relevant to Jabiluka--Attachment C. Jones, R.N., Hennessy, K.J. and Abbs, D.J. 1999. Climate change analysis relevant to Jabiluka--Attachment D. Chiew, F and Wang, Q.J. 1999. Hydrological anaysis relevant to surface water storage at Jabiluka--Attachment E. Kalf, F. and Dudgeon, C. 1999. Analysis of long term groundwater dispersal of contaminants from proposed Jabiluka mine tailings repositories--Appendix 2 of Attachment E. Simulation of leaching on non-reactive and radionuclide contaminants from proposed Jabiluka silo banks.




Uranium mill tailings - Environmental aspects - Northern Territory - Alligator Rivers Region; Environmental impact analysis - Northern Territory - Jabiluka; Uranium mines and mining - Environmental aspects - Northern Territory - Jabiluka; Jabiluka - Environmental aspects

Publisher name

Environment Australia

Place of publication

Canberra (A.C.T.)


Supervising Scientist Report; 138


1 volume (various pagings) : illustrations, maps

File type






Copyright owner

Environment Australia



Parent handle


Citation address


Related items

https://hdl.handle.net/10070/462403; https://hdl.handle.net/10070/462400; https://hdl.handle.net/10070/462405; https://hdl.handle.net/10070/462406; https://hdl.handle.net/10070/462408; https://hdl.handle.net/10070/462409; https://hdl.handle.net/10070/462411

Page content

13 developed to ensure that both people and ecosystems will be protected in the event of an accident. There has never been a transport accident involving the release of uranium product during the life of the Ranger mine. 1.4 Conclusions This report has been prepared in response to the request of the World Heritage Committee that the Supervising Scientist conduct a full review of scientific issues raised by the Committees Mission to Kakadu National Park in OctoberNovember 1998. Perceived scientific uncertainty with respect to these issues had led to the Missions conclusion that the natural values of Kakadu are threatened by the Jabiluka project. It must be emphasised that this report does not purport to be a complete environmental impact assessment of the Jabiluka project. There are many environmental protection issues related to the development of Jabiluka that were not raised in the Missions report or in the decision of the World Heritage Committee. These broader issues have already been addressed in the environmental impact assessment process to which the Jabiluka project was subjected and are covered by the requirements that the Commonwealth Government imposed in granting its approval for the project to proceed. This report includes a thorough review of all of the issues raised by the World Heritage Committee and provides a detailed assessment of the risks to people living in the vicinity of the mine and the risks to the wetlands of Kakadu arising from the storage of uranium ore at the surface at Jabiluka, the management of water and the storage of tailings. Many of the issues that were raised by the report of the Mission of the World Heritage Committee come into the category of detailed design. That is, many of the issues had been identified by the Supervising Scientist and others as being issues that would need to be resolved by the proponent in consultation with officials of the Northern Territory and the Supervising Scientist at the detailed design stage but the conclusion had been reached that there were no insurmountable obstacles that would prevent a design being achieved that would ensure the highest level of environmental protection in Kakadu National Park. This detailed review has demonstrated that there were a number of weaknesses in the hydrological modelling presented by ERA in the EIS and the PER. Accordingly, a number of recommendations have been made which should be implemented by ERA in completing the detailed design of the Jabiluka project. On the other hand, the review has demonstrated quite clearly that, if the design of the water management system proposed by ERA in the PER had been implemented, the risk to the wetlands of Kakadu National Park, and the risk of radiation exposure to people of the region would have been extremely low. This conclusion is valid even in extreme circumstances leading to the complete failure of the structure of the water retention pond at Jabiluka. The lay reader will, no doubt, find this conclusion surprising. Its origin, however, lies in the fact that uranium is not a particularly toxic substance for aquatic animals. It has been well established that the toxicity of uranium is much lower than that of many more common substances such as copper, cadmium and lead. It is the perception of the public that uranium is a very dangerous substance, and the failure of the scientific community to persuade the public otherwise, that has led to adoption of extreme measures to ensure that no amount of uranium should leave the site of a uranium mine.