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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

23 November 2000

Jabiluka "Negligible Risk" - International Scientists


A new report by the International Council of Science (ICSU) has provided further evidence that the Jabiluka mine does not threaten the natural world heritage values of Kakadu National Park.

The World Heritage Committee - which meets in Cairns next week - had asked an Independent Scientific Panel (ISP) from ISCU to provide advice on the science relating to the Jabiluka mine. The ISP visited Kakadu earlier this year to inspect the mine site and review the work done by the Office of Supervising Scientist in assessing the potential impact of the Jabiluka mine.

The report has concluded that:

"Overall, the ISP considers that the Supervising Scientist has identified all the principle risks to the natural values of the Kakadu World Heritage site that can presently be perceived to result from the Jabiluka Mill Alternative proposal. These risks have been analysed in detail and have been quantified with a high level of scientific certainty. Such analyses have shown the risks to be very small or negligible and that the development of the JMA should not threaten the natural World Heritage values of Kakadu National Park."

The ISP also accepted the findings of the Supervising Scientist that a leak of process water from the Ranger site earlier this year had not affected the World Heritage values of the adjacent Kakadu National Park.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the report is an overwhelmingly positive endorsement of the work done by Australia to ensure the Jabiluka project does not threaten Kakadu.

"The Office of Supervising Scientist has more than 20 years experience in monitoring uranium mining in the Kakadu region. This latest report confirms that the performance of the OSS represents world's best practice in this field.

"Independent international scientists have now confirmed that the science behind the Jabiluka project is sound and that the natural World Heritage values of Kakadu are not at risk."

The Supervising Scientist, Dr Arthur Johnston, has welcomed the report's findings.

"This report is international recognition of the expertise, professionalism and hard work of the Office of Supervising Scientist and the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist.

"It's findings show that the basis of our science is sound and will stand up to the highest level of scrutiny from the international science community.

"The ISP has also made some additional suggestions relating to regulatory processes and monitoring procedures. The OSS will provide the World Heritage Committee with a detailed response to these proposals."

Senator Hill says a recommendation for an additional science panel to advise on the Jabiluka mine would simply duplicate the work of the independent Supervising Scientist.

"This report shows the international community can have every confidence in the scientific credentials, independence and integrity of the Supervising Scientist.

"The Supervising Scientist has the freedom to call on the expertise of outside scientific bodies where appropriate and has done so on the Jabiluka issue, drawing on the work of experts from the CSIRO, University of NSW, University of Melbourne and the Bureau of Meteorology.

"We will, however, seek to address the aim of this recommendation through improving the transparency of the review process and considering ways of incorporating further independent advice from appropriate Australian scientists and engineers."

The ISP report can be found at http://www.environment.gov.au/ssg/isp-icsu/index.htm.

Media contact: Matt Brown on 0419 693 515

November 23, 2000

Commonwealth of Australia