An initial attempt to clean up Rum Jungle was made in 1977, which led to the setting up of a working group to examine more comprehensive rehabilitation. A $16.2 million Commonwealth-funded program got under way in 1983 to remove heavy metals and neutralise the tailings.
One of the principal problems associated with rehabilitating the Rum Jungle Creek South (RJCS) open cut was that the area was converted to a lake after mining ceased, and as the only water body in the Darwin region not infested with crocodiles, the site quickly became very popular with locals and Darwin residents as a recreation reserve. After mining, the area suffered elevated external gamma levels, alpha-radioactive dust and significant levels of radon daughters in prevailing air. These levels were so high that in the late 80s it was finally admitted that something had to be done. Radiation protection standards were being revised, so that the levels of pollution would now be officially recognised as unsafe for human health. As a result, a supplementary $1.8 million program to improve Rum Jungle Creek South waste dumps was undertaken in 1990.
One of the main environmental impacts of uranium mining is the creation of large volumes of radioactive mine waste (tailings) which are left behind on the site. The major radioactive component of these tailings is Uranium-238, an isotope with a halflife of 4.46 billion years. In 2003, a government survey of the tailings piles at Rum Jungle found that capping which was supposed to help contain this radioactive waste for at least 100 years, had failed in less than 20 years. The Territory and Federal Governments continue to argue over responsibility for funding rehabilitation on the polluted East Finniss River Contamination of local groundwater has yet to be addressed.
Compass suspended its work on the polymetallic proposal in 2002 when low metal prices caused the withdrawal of Compass’s financial partner (Doe Run).
In 2005, Compass lodged an application for a much smaller project focussing on cobalt, nickel and copper mining. Because this project, the Brown's Oxide Project is much smaller than the polymetallic project proposed previously, Compass is in a position to progress it on its own.
The Northern Territory Government has completed assessing this project and Ms Marion Scrymgour MLA, Minister for Natural Resources, Environment and Heritage in the Northern Territory Government has advised that she has concluded that the Browns Oxide Project as proposed in the Public Environmental Report and subsequent documents "can be managed without unacceptable environmental impacts"
The Hon. Kon Vatskalis MLA Minister for Mines and Energy announced this approval as "good news" during question time in the Northern Territory Parliament on 4 May 2006. To ensure the environment is managed properly, this approval and its recommendations is subject to final review by the Commonwealth Government under a bilateral agreement between the Northern Territory Government and the Commonwealth of Australia.
Pending final Commonwealth approval, the project is set to be in production by early 2007.
While the project is located near the old Rum Jungle mine, the Browns Oxide Project is targeting copper cobalt and nickel—not uranium. Nonetheless, Compass makes no secret that at some future point it would be interested in mining uranium at the nearby Rum Jungle site (over which it holds a lease). Any proposal to mine uranium would require a totally new application and environmental assessment as a separate project.