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Monday, 23 February 1987
Page: 447


Senator KILGARIFF(5.33) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I wish to speak very briefly to the very fine thirty-fourth annual report for 1985-86 of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, which covers a multitude of matters relating to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Time permits me to speak only briefly on the rehabilitation of the overburden dumps at Rum Jungle. Many years ago the Australian Atomic Energy Commission was responsible for the mining of uranium at Rum Jungle, near Batchelor, some 60 to 70 miles south of Darwin. In those days mining techniques were extremely poor, with the result that, through weathering, monsoonal rains and such there was a tremendous leakage down into the Finniss River of oxide and various types of soil that were lifted out of the open cut and dumped. The Finniss River, which used to be a favourite fishing place, became a dead river. The fish disappeared and overall the effect of the mining techniques was tremendous erosion and wastage.

It was very pleasing, therefore, to see that the Federal Government provided funding and that, in liaison with the Northern Territory Government and private enterprise, it rehabilitated Rum Jungle. I do not have the actual figures in front of me but I think that that rehabilitation program was carried out at a cost of some $18m to $19m. The interesting thing about the rehabilitation of Rum Jungle was that the project was completed within its allocated budget. Through the work of the engineers, scientists and private enterprise people who carried out this operation Rum Jungle has now been fully rehabilitated. If people are interested in the rehabilitation of areas subjected to poor mining techniques I suggest that they visit Rum Jungle. It was suggested that these poor mining techniques were the result of uranium mining. This was not the case; it was the oxide and other ores that were allowed to leach out and so kill the river. I might add that the river has now recovered. Fish are now in the river, and right throughout that whole area the rehabilitation has brought about a regrowth of plants and vegetation.

It is also interesting to note that at Whites dump, where there were two or three open cuts of considerable depth-200 or 300 feet-the water was absolutely poisonous. If anybody had swum in that water they would not have lasted very long. However, following rehabilitation, that water is now pure and can be used for local sporting events. All in all, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, which oversaw the rehabilitation project, the Federal Government, for its funding, the Northern Territory Government and private enterprise, for carrying out a lot of these measures, are to be congratulated. It is indicative of what can be done to rehabilitate some of these old mining projects if they are attacked with earnestness, funding and expertise. All of those organisations are to be congratulated.

Question resolved in the affirmative.