THE FOX REPORT
What is known as the Fox Report is the foundation for current policy
on uranium mining in Australia. The report takes its name from the chairman
of a commission established in July 1975 under section 11 of the Environment
Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 to inquire into environmental
aspects of a mining proposal by the then Australian Atomic Energy Commission
(forerunner of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation)
and Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd. The full terms of reference and details
of membership are contained in Appendix 1.2 Appendix 1.2 also includes
a list of the Advisors to the Commission. This particular list demonstrates
the diversity of perspectives which a comprehensive study of uranium mining
and milling entails.
The inquiry's basic interest was in "environmental aspects."
For the purposes of the inquiry, the term "environment" was
defined as "all aspects of the surroundings of man, whether affecting
him as an individual or in his social groupings."
The Commission also took evidence more broadly on the question of mining
uranium. As it explained, " [m]any were opposed to the proposal on
the ground that the use of uranium in the nuclear power industry carried
with it risks and dangers of such a nature and magnitude that Australia
should not export it, or mine it at all. The Commission decided to receive
and hear submissions on this aspect, although it was not dealt with in
the environmental impact statement."
The Fox inquiry had many features of a classic public inquiry. It heard
evidence throughout Australia from 281 people. 354 documents were received
in evidence. The transcript of evidence occupied 12 575 pages.
The Inquiry's first report was presented on 28 October 1976. Its second
report was presented on 17 May 1977. The second report included a report
under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976
which dealt with a land claim in the Ranger area.
The principal findings and recommendations of the Fox inquiry are set
out in Appendix 1.3. For the purposes of this report the main conclusions
were that -
The hazards of mining and milling uranium, if those activities
are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a
decision not to develop Australian uranium mines.
The hazards involved in the ordinary operations of nuclear power
reactors, if those operations are properly regulated and controlled,
are not such as to justify a decision not to mine and sell Australian
The nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to
an increased risk of nuclear war . . . Complete evaluation of the extent
of the risk and assessment of what course should be followed to reduce
it involve matters of national security and international relations
which are beyond the ambit of the Inquiry. We suggest that the questions
involved are of such importance that they be resolved by Parliament.
Any development of Australian uranium mines should be strictly
regulated and controlled.
. . .
No sales of Australian uranium should take place to any country
not party to the N[uclear] N[on]-P[roliferation] T[reaty]. Export should
be subject to the fullest and most effective safeguards agreements,
and be supported by fully adequate back-up agreements applying to the
entire civil nuclear industry in the country supplied. Australia should
work towards the adoption of this policy by other suppliers.
. . .
(Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry (RUEI) (Chair: Mr Justice
R. W. Fox), Report No 1, 1976, 185-6)
Agreement to mining uranium at Nabarlek and Ranger, and subsequently
at the Olympic Dam Operation, proceeded on the basis of the Fox Report.
The essence of the policy, still in force, was that uranium would only
be sold to countries which are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty and which have safeguards agreements with the International Atomic
Energy Agency and with Australia.
A special framework for administration of uranium mining in the Northern
Territory was created to deal not only with the mining itself but also
with the impacts of mining on the environment. This is described in chapter
2. The Australian Safeguards Office, established in the mid-1960s, was
organised and resourced to apply the safeguards system designed to verify
that Australian-obligated nuclear materials were only used for approved
civil purposes in approved countries.
A Uranium Advisory Council was also established. It reported annually
to Parliament with regard to the export and use of Australian uranium,
having in mind in particular the hazards, dangers and problems of and
associated with the production of nuclear energy. It was abolished in
The Australian Radiation Laboratory (ARL) provided a limited range of
services to the industry. Further information on the ARL may be found
in chapter 4.