Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Kick Marathon Out Of Arkaroola!

Last September, I put up a post (here) calling attention to the threat of Marathon Resources’ proposed uranium mining in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

On 18 December, 2007, Marathon piously announced that it was commissioning an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on its proposed mine.

The EIS described as “a crucial component to the future of our project”.

“Environmental issues that form part of the EIS (estimated to take up to 18 months to complete) include groundwater impacts, surface water management, flora and fauna, Aboriginal heritage management, air and noise quality, and land use impacts.”

While it was saying one thing to the public about the “crucial component” of an EIS, in private, away in the remoteness of the wilderness sanctuary, Marathon was burying hundreds, and possibly thousands, of plastic bags containing drill tailings (ore samples) and rubbish from workers at the site, in shallow pits in contravention of its exploration licence.

Ironically, some of these bags can be seen in a promotional video (here) on the Investor TV website, between 1:45 and 1:47.

In the video, Marathon CEO Dr John Santich extols the virtues of the Mt Gee project, and in a spiel directed specifically at potential shareholding investors, makes the incredible claim that “we have essentially the approval of the state government – it’s supported it in every possible way.”

So here is a company that has not yet even made a formal application for a licence to mine, pre-empting a decision of the State government. It would be interesting to know just who in the State government has given the nod for this sort of outrageous comment to be made, because on the face of it, it is saying that parliament is just a fig-leaf, a façade, behind which a nudge-nudge-wink-wink brand of crony capitalism is taking place.

The latter may not be not too harsh an observation - even the bourgeois media has been somewhat surprised at the State government’s response to Marathon’s environmental vandalism.

Mike Smithson, in Murdoch’s Sunday Mail (Jan 20, 2008) said of SA Attorney-General Michael Atkinson’s response to the issue that “he didn’t want to be drawn into making adverse comment about the company…(he) tried to be diplomatic in dealing with the issue. He was probably much keener to see it go away without causing too much collateral damage.”

Smithson clearly regarded the State government’s “tut-tutting” about Marathon’s environmental despoliation as incredibly weak stuff and said that “it mustn’t be so placid and understanding next time around.”

John Wiseman, in next day’s Australian, quite incredibly quoted State Premier Rann as denying that uranium exploration was happening in the Arkaroola sanctuary, saying it was “in an area nearby”.

Mt Gee is not “in an area nearby”, although the sanctuary does abut the Gammon Ranges National Park which is managed by the Adnyamathanha people, the traditional owners of the area around the Northern Flinders Ranges which incorporates both the Park and the sanctuary.

Just what Rann had been smoking was anyone’s guess, for his next comment was totally confusing.

Questioned whether he would rule out mining in the sanctuary, he replied: “There’s an exploration licence going on right now and it’s in an area outside the area that people are talking about in terms of a national park, so the answer is no.”

So it’s “outside the sanctuary” and “outside a national park”? What does that mean when it’s clearly within the sanctuary, which is privately owned?

Rann’s and Atkinson’s priorities were to avoid “adverse comment” about the company because they want a cosy relationship with the mining industry.

In fact, they are in the process of cultivating just such a relationship with core elements of the ruling class, inviting “the corporate world to join SA Progressive Business….(which) provides a unique opportunity for business to meet with Labor leaders who are pro-business, pro-mining, and pro-growth.”

Foundation membership of $10,000 entitles the corporate member to events including Breakfast Ministerial briefings and Twilight Ministerial Briefings, reserved tickets for major government functions and corporate recognition at such functions.

No wonder some call the ALP (Australian Labor Party) the Alternative Liberal Party!

The conditions exist for the widest possible unity between friends of the Arkaroola sanctuary, environmentalists, anti-nuclear activists, the Adnyamathanha people and unions so as to isolate the State government and Marathon, and protect the Northern Flinders Ranges and Arkaroola.

We need a call to the streets over this issue!

(Mt Gee scenery, left, including the rare yellow-footed rock wallaby).

Sanctuary Owners Appeal:
Do you Think that Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is an Appropriate Place for a Uranium Mine?

We don't......!

In fact, we don't want a mine - of any description - on Arkaroola.

A uranium mine here would be a total contradiction ofthe principles of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. It undermines the 40 years of conservation work conducted by our parents to protect over 600 square kilometres of this wild and beautiful arid mountain range country.

Arkaroola is a major South Australian biodiversity asset: the property contains a number of threatened species; plants, birds and even fish. There are 35 colonies of Yellow-footed Rock-wallabies, and in 1981 our father, Dr Reg Sprigg, placed 70 square km of prime wallaby habitat on the National Estate Register to assist in their protection.

Arkaroola contains a number of Geological Monuments, including Mount Gee (the site of the uranium deposit and planned mine).

The property is a sanctuary under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. Funds raised from tourism activities are put back into the environment in various ways, such as weed and feral animal control. Arkaroola was a pastoral property for only a short time, and the regeneration of mulga here is the most significant in the Flinders Ranges.

In 2005, Arkaroola was identified to be of international significance by Andrew Ingles of the World Conservation Union.

It is our philosophy that through the principles of Ecotourism we are not only able to help protect and conserve this unique environment, but make it accessible to you to enjoy in a way that inspires inquiry; a thirst to understand more about the interconnectiveness of its fabulous geology, flora and fauna - that makes Arkaroola what it is!

You, our visitors and friends, can help us save Arkaroola from the threat of mining. If you would like to assist please click here to download a copy of this letter and please write to any or all of the State and Federal politicians listed below, including the State Premier.

With grateful thanks - Marg and Doug Sprigg.

Download Arkaroola's Media Release issued 21 September 2007.

Breaking News: Arkaroola is proud and excited with our latest success in the S.A. Tourism Awards, winning Ecotourism (third successive award - and inclusion in the coveted Hall of Fame), Sustainable Tourism (second successive year), and recognition for the second time in three years as South Australia's Major Tourist Attraction. The very idea of mining in this unique and pristine wilderness is in total conflict with everything that Arkaroola stands for, and has achieved over the past four decades. Surely some places have to be off limits to mining exploitation! (Click here for further information regarding our recent awards).
Please help us save Arkaroola for your children!

Click here for further information about the proposed uranium mining site at Mount Gee, the heartland of Arkaroola.

What the Media is Saying About Mining on Arkaroola:
Mike Smithson, Political Reporter for the Sunday Mail, has written an interesting article about the allegedly illegal dumping of hundreds of drill sample bags in two shallow pits on the Mount Gee exploration site of Marathon Resources, Pty Ltd. This area is the heartland of Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.
Please click here to see Mike's report, published on 20 January 2008 - which has been reproduced with the kind permission of the Sunday Mail.

State Politicians:
The Premier of South Australia,The Hon. Mike Rann MPPO Box 2343, Adelaide SA 5001Email: premier@saugov.sa.gov.au
The Minister for Mineral Resources Development,The Hon. Paul Holloway, MPGPO Box 2832, Adelaide SA 5001Email: ministerholloway@saugov.sa.gov.au
The Minister for Environment and Conservation,The Hon. Gail Gago MLCGPO Box 1047, Adelaide, SA 5001Email: minister.gago@saugov.sa.gov.au
The Minister for Tourism,The Hon. Jane Lomax-Smith, MPGPO Box 778, Adelaide, SA 5001Email: minedcs@saugov.sa.gov.au
The Hon. Nicholas Xenophon, MLCGPO Box 572, Adelaide SA 5001Email: nx@xen.net.au

Federal Politicians:
Prime Minister,The Hon. Kevin Rudd MPTelphone (02) 6277 7700PO Box 6022, House of Representatives,Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600
Minister for the Environment , Heritage and Arts,The Hon. Peter Garrett MPPO Box 6022, House of Representatives,Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600Email: Peter.Garrett.MP@aph.gov.au
Minister for Climate Change and WaterThe Hon. Penny WongPO Box 6237, Halifax Street Adelaide SA 5000 Email: Online contact form at http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/senators/homepages/senators.asp?id=00AOU
Minister for Tourism,The Hon Martin Ferguson AM MPPO Box 6022, House of Representatives,Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600Email: Martin.Ferguson.MP@aph.gov.au
Leader of the Opposition,The Hon Dr Brendan Nelson MPPO Box 6022, House of Representatives,Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600Senator for Tasmania,Senator Bob Brown,Level 1, Murray Street Pier,Murray Street, Hobart Tas 7000Email: senator.bob.brown@aph.gov.au
Shadow Minister for TourismSenator the Hon David Johnston183 Great Eastern Highway Belmont WA 6104
Shadow Minister for The EnvironmentThe Hon Greg Hunt MPPO Box 274Hastings Vic 3915 Email: Greg.Hunt.MP@aph.gov.au

Please save this web page in your Favourites Folder as information will be updated as it comes to hand on a regular basis.

Please help us protect Arkaroola.

(Above: Environmental destruction at Mt Gee in 1970 after more than 100 exploration holes were drilled in an earlier period of exploration for uranium.)


Malt said...

Its incredible but indicative of the times that Marathons and the state governments assault on Mount Gee is not front page news. The story is however gathering momentum. This is a watershed case indeed. If Marathon is permitted to continue then its evidence of carte blanche license for corporations to take what they please without answering to anyone.

Prior to the contamination incident, evidence exists that the federal governmennt would not approve Marathon if it demonstrated itself to not be a responsible 'person', so its now time for the federal government to step in and close this operation.

There is ample reason on many levels for this operation to be stopped. The nature of this operation is high risk for the wrongful supply of Uranium to the world market. The question must be asked where sample uranium ore (high grade) from Mount Gee is now. Thousands of drill holes on Mount Gee but no accountability for the uranium taken from the site.

Once the ALP took a solid stance on nuclear non-proliferation, now its demonstrating itself to be party to the crime and Australians need to heed the warning and wake up. Our politicians are not acting on behalf of Australians they appear to be slaves to the global mining interests. How incredible that Peter Garret, once anti-nuclear fanatic, is as silent as a church mouse when it comes to key global nuclear issues.

Federal assurance that Marathon will not get a license:

Thank you for your enquiry

The Mt Gee Uranium Mine requires approval of the Minister for the
Environment, Heritage and the Arts under the Environment Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The Minister's delegate determined
on 12 October 2007 that the impacts of this proposal will need to be
assessed by an environmental impact statement (EIS). This means that the
potential impacts of the mine on the ecological, geological and cultural
values of the Arkaroola area will need to be rigorously examined in the
EIS and subjected to review through a public comment period. The timing
for preparation of the EIS and its public release is unclear at this

In deciding whether or not to approve this project, the Minister is
required to take into account, amongst other things, the environmental
history of the person taking the action (Marathon Resources Pty Ltd).

The proposal will also require approval from the South Australian

Lachlan Wilkinson CEnvP
A/g Director
Mining Section
Environment Assessment Branch
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
Phone: (02) 6274 2440
Fax: (02) 6274 1620
Email: Lachlan.Wilkinson@environment.gov.au

Nigel Carney

Mike said...

Thanks for the info. It's very interesting and useful. I've put a link on today's post, about Schacht's appointment, to the Indymedia article.