Thursday, January 24, 2008

Marathon uranium miners are clever strategists

A report in today’s Australian (p. 6) confirms that former Federal Labor minister Chris Schacht has been a shareholder of Marathon all along. Schacht says he has been a “small retail shareholder” and “aware of the company since the beginning”.

No wonder he lobbied so hard against the State Labor government’s “no new mines” policy!

The stench of crony capitalism hangs all over this mob.

According to the report, Schacht “hoped to use his contacts to benefit the company”.

Such altruism!

WA Inc. may end up having had nothing on SA Inc.

No wonder State Premier Rann and his Cabinet have fought against the creation of an Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Well, we need one now.

Apart from anything else, it would be good to know who Schacht has lobbied, when, and in what capacity. And what connections, if any, exist between PIRSA and Marathon personnel.

Marathon Resources are very clever strategists.

Not only in recruiting Chis Schacht, but they also have a (John) Neil Andrews, ex Speaker House of Reps, ex MP Wakefield, chairing a “North Flinders Community Consultation Council” which is sure to confuse almost everybody into thinking it is the council in place of:

The regional Natural Resource Management Council and
The regional Community Council.

The make-up of this group is also very interesting, and is supposed to include local landholders and Aboriginal representatives. Details of who is actually on it, and how they got there, cannot be established at this time. Two people, however, are there at the direct invitation of Marathon – Bill McIntosh and the chair, Neil Andrew. Fees are not mentioned.

I cannot find any minutes of meeting, but I can find a mention in the Arid Lands Natural Resource Management Board by its member, Bill McIntosh, AM, who features in another place as meeting with McGuaran to discuss arid lands issues.

There is a declaration (not published) of a financial interests requirement for this Board. Be interesting to see what it says re Bill.

Elsewhere, in company annual reports, references are made to consultancy and communications payments of $170,000+ and $100,000 plus in recent times. Recipients?

Directors’ remuneration also makes fascinating reading in the company’s annual reports. Couple of staff get nice payments as “consultant companies”; and hold huge share options. It’s certainly in their interests to talk this up.

A trace of linkages to PIRSA also emerges in the early days (2005) of Marathon’s reports.

There is a Wilderness Advisory Committee which could report on this to Minister Gago, but has not even scheduled consideration as far as can be determined from published proceedings.

The two Executive Directors, Dr J.R. Santich and Dr W. Bogacz, are directors of Archon Pty Ltd and Archon Technologies Pty Ltd respectively. Both companies provided services to Marathon Resources Limited in connection with the provision by them of Executive Directors to the Company and were paid $223,840 and $257,952 respectively, in this egard ($40,875 each covering the period 1 April to 30 June 2006).

John Santich, CEO, lives on Sheoak Road, Belair, and holds his Marathon company shares in Sheoak Runner Pty Ltd; Wieslaw Bogacz has shares in his own name, as well as in that of Archon Resource Technologies Pty Ltd.
Two directors are lawyers with Lynch Meyer.

Various documents indicate water will be a problem, as will transport out for the preferred dump site, just off the edge of East Painter gorge. Others indicate the resource as being of higher grades than thought by Exoil, previous explorer, with more of it, and at depths ranging from just below the surface to around 600m below. Valuable rare earths and copper accompany the deposit. Marathon has sole control of about nine other interests, and holdings in other ventures controlled by other companies. It spends about 75% of its money and presumably, effort, on Mt Gee which has been its jewel in reporting to the stock market via the ASX.

It was well cashed up when Talbot Resources and CITIC bought in in 2006/07.

A report by Deustch Bank in 2006, presumably based on Marathon information, highlights increasing demand for supply and rising prices as the fossil fuel energy supply dries up. Eg, the amount of electricity produced by nuclear generation is about 19% of demand currently, with 400 plants world wide. An extra 300 plus are to come on stream in the next 5 years. Switkowki’s report, commissioned by the Howard government, undoubtedly paves the way for development and expansion.

Larger resources exist, and are more easily accessible, in WA, Qld and the NT – but state government policy and, in the NT, traditional owner opposition, stalled development. Companies are no doubt looking forward to a change of policy or government. In the meantime, this leaves SA with its sympathetic policies and an active PIRSA in the box seat to capitalise on the development of deposits containing U3O8.

In reality, the race is on to capture the market with the quickest, most accessible supplies of U3O8 (yellow cake). At various times Marathon of mining about 1,500,000 tonnes of ore for from 9 to 13 years, recovering between 900 and 1000 tonnes of U3O8, which puts a value of $200m pa on the venture. Their current investment amounts to something less than $8m, and the Tunnel Mining Association reports that it looks forward to this as a next big venture. Dollar costs to recover the U3O8 have not yet been estimated, but elsewhere deposits like this cost about $17/lb of U3O8 to recover. Current market price is $US86/lb.

Access: There are two ways in. One, is via Arkaroola and the famed Ridge Top Tour. The other - Exoil ripped (and ripped is the operative word) a track through East Painter gorge to Mt Gee in the late 50’s, and it has the advantage to Marathon of starting on the plains about 5 kms east of Mt Gee – quicker, flatter, more direct, and on the way to Beverley. It has been washed out in places, and is quite steep, but that is as nothing to a mining company.

Various documents show the area is pinholed with test bores – over 30km of drilling has occurred in the immediate area, and more is to take place. The impact must by now be quite severe and worthy of inspection.

Oh, and congratulations to the shareholders. After a loss yesterday of 11 cents, today’s rise, following on from the announcement about Schacht, was 14 cents.

It’s good to know what you’re worth, Chris.


Recommended website: Wilderness Society (SA) with link to Arkaroola newsletter:

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