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

17 wish to proceed with that proposal, a further assessment under the EPIP Act would be required. In June 1998, ERA submitted a Public Environment Report (PER) (ERA 1998) containing its detailed proposal for the milling of ore at Jabiluka. Following assessment of the proposal under the EPIP Act, the Government approved the project in August 1998 subject to a number of environmental requirements. Principal among these was the requirement that all mill tailings would be returned underground to the mine void and to specially constructed stopes or silos instead of tailings pits as proposed by ERA in the PER. 2.2 World Heritage Bureau Mission to Kakadu 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 2728 November 1998. The report concluded that the development of the Jabiluka mine poses both ascertained and potential dangers to the cultural and natural values of the World Heritage property. These threats were elaborated in sections 7.5 to 7.17 of the report. Section 7.5 referred to scientific uncertainties and is quoted in full below. 7.5 Scientific uncertainties and the need for risk assessment There are three issues of scientific uncertainty that lead to a finding of potential danger: (i) the degree of uncertainty concerning the quality of the hydrological modelling carried out in designing the water management plan for the mine site and the implication that this may lead to the release of water from the mine site into the Swift Creek system; (ii) the degree of uncertainty concerning the effectiveness of the concrete pasting process as a means of storing the tailings in the mine void, and (iii) the possible impacts on catchment ecosystems. The mission received extensive briefings from ERA and the Supervising Scientist Group (SSG). The mission recognizes the scientific analyses carried out by ERA and the valuable role and work of the Supervising Scientist Group (SSG). However, in the light of the concerns expressed by some of Australias most authoritative and widely respected scientists and the uncertainty that these concerns raise, the mission is of the view that best practice is not to continue mining at Jabiluka regardless of the concerns, but rather to apply the Precautionary Principle which requires that mining operations at Jabiluka be ceased. There is also uncertainty expressed by ERA over the location and extent of the uranium ore body at Jabiluka and the consequent uncertainty over the final scale and duration of the Jabiluka mine. This uncertainty combined with the scientific concerns adds to the conclusion that the property is faced with a potential danger as defined in Paragraph 79 (ii) of the Operational Guidelines. Given the uncertainties mentioned above, the mission notes that formal risk assessments should have been undertaken for the Jabiluka mining proposal. Risk assessment processes are capable of putting solid upper-limit probability factors against the

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