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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 696

Senator McINTOSH —I direct my question to the Minister for Resources and Energy. Can the Minister confirm media stories today that the Government has received a report recommending that contaminated water at the Ranger uranium mine be released into the Kakadu National Park water system? Can the Minister also confirm that this proposal contradicts an earlier position of the Supervising Scientist for the Alligator Rivers Region for the mine? Will the Government act to ensure that any action required will be at a cost to the mining company and not at a cost to the environment of the Kakadu National Park?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Government has received two reports-a draft one and a final one-on the Ranger mine's water management system. In November 1985 the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment established a technical working group comprising the Supervising Scientist, the Northern Territory Government and Ranger to facilitate agreement on the best water management system for the mine. The technical working group's draft report was considered by the Co-ordinating Committee for the Alligator Rivers Region last November. I received from Mr Cohen a copy of the working group's final report towards the end of January this year. Our departments are now preparing joint advice on it. The report referred to in today's media bears some resemblance to the draft report of last November, but it should not be assumed that the final report, now being considered by the Government, contains the same recommendations.

As to the part of the question dealing with the attitudes and opinions of the Supervising Scientist for the Alligator Rivers Region, the case as I understand it is that the Supervising Scientist has never expressly argued in favour of a completely no-release water management regime for the Ranger mine. I understand that the position of the Supervising Scientist has always been that the water management system should be kept under close review. As to the general thrust of the last part of the question, as I and other Government Ministers have said many times before, the Government fully recognises the significance of Kakadu as a world heritage area and any decision that we finally make on Ranger's water management strategy will be the best one from an environmental viewpoint.