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Completion of the South Alligator Valley Remediation: Northern Territory, Australia

[+] Author Affiliations
Peter Waggitt

IAEA, Vienna, Austria

Mike Fawcett

Fawcett Mine Rehabilitation Services, Howard Springs, NT, Australia

Paper No. ICEM2009-16198, pp. 633-637; 5 pages
doi:10.1115/ICEM2009-16198
From:
  • ASME 2009 12th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management
  • ASME 2009 12th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management, Volume 2
  • Liverpool, UK, October 11–15, 2009
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division and Environmental Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4408-3 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3865-X
  • Copyright © 2009 by ASME

abstract

13 uranium mines operated in the South Alligator Valley of Australia’s Northern Territory between 1953 and 1963. At the end of operations the mines, and associated infrastructure, were simply abandoned. As this activity preceded environmental legislation by about 15 years there was neither any obligation, nor attempt, at remediation. In the 1980s it was decided that the whole area should become an extension of the adjacent World Heritage, Kakadu National Park. As a result the Commonwealth Government made an inventory of the abandoned mines and associated facilities in 1986. This established the size and scope of the liability and formed the framework for a possible future remediation project. The initial program for the reduction of physical and radiological hazards at each of the identified sites was formulated in 1989 and the works took place from 1990 to 1992. But even at this time, as throughout much of the valley’s history, little attention was being paid to the long term aspirations of traditional land owners. The traditional Aboriginal owners, the Gunlom Land Trust, were granted freehold Native Title to the area in 1996. They immediately leased the land back to the Commonwealth Government so it would remain a part of Kakadu National Park, but under joint management. One condition of the lease required that all evidence of former mining activity be remediated by 2015. The consultation, and subsequent planning processes, for a final remediation program began in 1997. A plan was agreed in 2003 and, after funding was granted in 2005, works implementation commenced in 2007. An earlier paper described the planning and consultation stages, experience involving the cleaning up of remant uranium mill tailings and other mining residues; and the successful implementation of the initial remediation works. This paper deals with the final planning and design processes to complete the remediation programme, which is due to occur in 2009. The issues of final containment design and long term stewardship are addressed in the paper as well as some comments on lessons learned through the life of the project.

Copyright © 2009 by ASME

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