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 -

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 1983.

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.