Senate Inquiry needed to investigate history of environmental failures

April 19, 2002

Key national and NT environment groups have today joined the call by the Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation for a Senate Inquiry into the adequacy of environmental regulation and monitoring at the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu. The call follows reports yesterday by a former Ranger worker which detail major environmental breaches and systemic failures at the controversial operation.

One of the incidents described involved uranium levels up to 70 times higher than the reporting standard being found in Galangal Creek, inside Kakadu National Park. "These reports detail an alarming level of mismanagement, secrecy and cover-up at Ranger Mine," said Mark Wakeham of the Environment Centre NT. "These incidents were not reported to the regulatory authorities and in one case the employee was prevented from finding the source of a uranium leak into Kakadu."

Geoff Kyle, a former radiation officer and environmental chemist at Ranger, has informed the Commonwealth and Northern Territory authorities of a series of major environmental incidents that went unreported. His allegations were detailed in last night's ABC 7-30 Report which further highlighted the inadequacy of existing reporting and whistle-blower protection arrangements.

"Environment groups support the Mirrar traditional Aboriginal owners call for a Senate Inquiry as the best way to protect those who have information on this matter and ensure that the full facts are heard," said ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney.

"The Office of the Supervising Scientist and the NT Government regulate the mine and could be perceived as too close to assess the latest reports independently. We need an independent and fearless analysis of the impacts, management and monitoring of this contentious industry and the Senate is well placed to address this important national issue."

ERA's Kakadu uranium operations continue to be the focus of strong opposition from environmental groups and traditional owners who earlier this week attended company annual meetings of both ERA and parent company Rio Tinto in both Sydney and Melbourne to highlight concerns.

"There have been over 110 documented environmental breaches at Ranger uranium mine," said Bruce Thompson of Friends of the Earth Australia. "These new reports suggest that there may be many more unreported breaches which may be having significant impacts on Kakadu National Park. Uranium mining is simply not compatible with protecting the region's World Heritage values."

For more information contact:

Bruce Thompson,
FoEA Nuclear Campaigner
Ph: (03) 9419 8700
Mob: 0417 318 368