22 October 2009 - Ranger leak claims denied

 

Government scientist says Greens Senator Scott Ludlam wrong on Ranger mine leak claim

The Government scientist who monitors environmental aspects of the Ranger uranium mine has denied claims from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam that contaminated radioactive water is leaking from the mine into Kakadu National Park.

The Commonwealth’s Supervising Scientist, Mr Alan Hughes, was giving evidence to an estimates hearing of the Senate committee on Environment, Communication and the Arts.

Mr Hughes told the committee that he is “very confident that the monitoring is adequate” to ensure that contaminated radioactive water is not leaking into the Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory.

The Ranger uranium mine is located next to the Park, but is separate from it.

Senator Ludlam has repeatedly claimed that 100,000 litres a day of contaminated radioactive water is leaking from the Ranger tailings storage into Kakadu.

As late as 9 September this year, Senator Ludlam told the Senate:

“The Government has recognised the unique nature of uranium mine tailings in setting a standard for the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory. That is the mine that has been leaking around 100,000 litres of contaminated radioactive water a day into Kakadu.” (Senate Hansard, Wednesday 9 September 2009, p. 25)

In the Senate estimates committee this week, this claim was challenged by Deputy Opposition Leader in the Senate, Senator Eric Abetz:

Senator ABETZ—So the statement that this mine has been leaking around 100,000 litres of contaminated radioactive water a day into Kakadu is, from your understanding of the facts, incorrect?

Mr Hughes—That is right. That is incorrect.

Senator ABETZ—Are you satisfied that adequate monitoring is being done to ensure that contaminated radioactive water is not leaking from Ranger into the Kakadu National Park?

Mr Hughes—Yes. I am very confident that the monitoring is adequate.

Mr Hughes has acknowledged that water from the tailings storage is seeping into rock under the tailings dam, where small amounts of metal and chemical sediments “will be fixed in the rock”.

This material will be managed in the rehabilitation of the mine site after its expected closure in the early 2020s.

Senator ABETZ—On that premise that you agree to, are you satisfied with the progress that is being made in planning for that eventuality?

Mr Hughes—Yes.

Estimates Committee Hansard: http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/S12490.pdf p.ECA 15