Supervising Scientist’s Overview
2021–22 has been a busy and productive year for the Supervising Scientist Branch (SSB), with some significant rehabilitation milestones achieved at Ranger and exciting progress made across a range of our research projects.
All tailings at Ranger have now been placed in the mined-out pits, we have verified that the tailings dam has been scraped clean and the Ranger 3 Deeps Exploration Decline has been filled in. Revegetation work continued over Pit 1, including the creation of rock-pile ‘habitats’ designed in consultation with Traditional Owners to create points of cultural connection across the landscape.
This year our monitoring program was expanded to include PFAS and some additional locations. Monitoring was completed as scheduled and continues to demonstrate that the people and the environment of Kakadu National Park remain protected from the effects of uranium mining. The use of videography and artificial intelligence for fish monitoring is working well and is now routine, and for the second year we have tested DNA-based macroinvertebrate monitoring techniques in parallel with our traditional methods of manual processing.
We continue to work closely with a wide range of contractors, collaborators and stakeholders, including the ongoing support provided for our field program by the Djurrubu Rangers. I am also grateful to Microsoft for their continuing support in the development of artificial intelligence-based monitoring tools, where our focus is now on automating the identification of overstory vegetation species from remotely piloted aircraft systems imagery.
Although ensuring the successful rehabilitation of Ranger remains our key priority, we continued our management of the South Alligator Disposal Facility and the Koongarra legacy site, as well as progressing work at both the Nabarlek and Jabiluka uranium mining sites.
We continued to make good progress against our research schedule, including the close out of a number of research projects and Key Knowledge Needs. The Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee met twice during the year, endorsed the SSB research program and noted the high quality of the science produced.
Beyond our core functions in the Alligator Rivers Region, we continued to provide technical support to, and collaborate with, colleagues in the wider department and we undertook a range of engagements with international organisations including the International Atomic Energy Agency.
I am proud of what we have achieved over the last 12 months and remain very grateful to have the opportunity to lead such a dedicated and professional team. I would like to extend my thanks to everyone at SSB for the large amount of work we have delivered this year.