Ecological Trajectory of Nabarlek Uranium Mine

Nabarlek uranium mine, within the Arnhem Land Aboriginal Reserve in the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory, was one of the first Australian mines to undertake a formal rehabilitation process. Nabarlek therefore offers an opportunity to investigate the condition of a rehabilitated mine in this region after 25 years.

Whilst landforms have been stabilised and vegetation established there remain some areas where management interventions may be needed for achievement of originally desired objectives of supporting ‘self-sustaining woodland communities’ that ‘blend with the surrounding forests’.  Kate’s PhD project is considering the likely ecological trajectory of different areas of the rehabilitation at Nabarlek Mine. This will involve consideration of how rehabilitated areas compare to appropriate undisturbed areas in terms of factors like ecosystem similarity and resilience.  Nabarlek was also one of the first uranium mines rehabilitated under an agreement with traditional owners and Kate is also researching traditional owner perspectives of the rehabilitation at Nabarlek.

Kate’s project is supported by the Supervising Scientist Branch of the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Learnings from Kate’s work will assist with restoration planning for Ranger Uranium Mine, which has similar rehabilitation goals as Nabarlek and will be reincorporated into the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park.

Biography

Kate has worked as an environmental consultant both within government and private industry on projects ranging from large impact assessments and management plans for infrastructure including mines, pipelines and roads to projects on a smaller scale such as providing detailed advice relating to management and rehabilitation of land parcels for local government and landholders. Some highlights have included work within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area for the Department of Main Roads relating to road design to reduce cassowary road deaths and maintenance planning to minimise impacts on World Heritage values. Kate also has an arts degree (majoring in anthropology and geography) and has worked on projects relating to cultural heritage management and community consultation around environmental management.

Supervisor

Associate Professor Peter Erskine & Sarah Holcombe