Monday, January 28, 2008

Mining Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary – putting it in perspective

(Above: ruling class aesthetics. A carefully composed shot of exploration ore samples in front of Mt Gee. For real aesthetics, go to )

Ever since it started, Marathon Resources has been talking up the “highly prospective” Mt Gee deposit in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, (above) as though it was the next big thing. In terms of Arkaroola, it is. It’s huge. It threatens to destroy it. But it’s miniscule, microscopic even when it is compared with the production planned from known reserves.

Marathon talks of recovering perhaps 900 tonnes of U3O8 by mining, carting and dumping, then leaching a massive 1,500,000 tonnes of low grade ore each year for maybe 9 years.

Put it in perspective. Australia’s three mines currently produce more than ten times that amount. They produce about 10,000 tonnes of U3O8 per annum from more than 15,000,000 tonnes of ore, most of it from just two, Ranger and Olympic Dam. Olympic Dam plans an expansion which will achieve up to 13,000 tonnes pa. Now that is big, it puts Marathon into minnowhood, but it's nothing compared with what is in WA and Qld. Or Kazakhstan for that matter. The difference is that Qld and WA stopped uranium mining. All it takes is for that to change. We know how fickle government can be. WA Inc could alter production plans in the wink of an eye. So could SA Inc.

Together, Ranger and Olympic Dam make up about 70% of known ore deposits. Best guesses about the other 30%, and that is what they are, guesses, indicate that the remaining 30% is spread around more than 30 sites, one of which is Mt Gee in the heart of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. The Mt Gee deposit is not strictly “proven” – it’s a guess. It’s an “indicated” and, mostly, “inferred” resource which is nothing on the scale of things.

Taken together, these figures mean that, at its absolute best, Marathon could perhaps extract up to 3 or 4% of Australia’s planned production by exploiting less than 2% of Australia’s ore deposits and ruining all of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary at Mt Gee.

It will have to extract millions of litres of as yet unidentified but notably precious arid lands water. Their own site plans show they want to do that on top of two major dry land watercourses with who knows what destructive downstream impact on precious flora and fauna. There’s the real risk flash floods will rip through the site, spreading radioactive material far and wide.

The history of this project makes intriguing reading using material sourced mainly from Marathon’s own web site.

Three out of five inaugural directors, including the inaugural CEO, now managing executive director, were linked to former SA Labor Premier Don Dunstan’s old law firm, Lynch Meyer.

Minister Holloway opened Marathon's Port Road offices(see right) on 20 July 2007. What briefings were prepared, by whom, using material sourced from where? Who briefed the Minister, and whose material was used in the briefing? Did anyone refer to Marathon Resources P/L material in preparing the briefing? If so, who and what? Did Marathon supply, or cause to be supplied, any information, if so, to who, how, and what was it?

Premier Rann has been careful to make the same artificial distinctions between a National Park and a sanctuary as Marathon’s CEO did recently in a power point presentation. Who briefed the Premier, and whose material was used in the briefing? Did anyone refer to Marathon Resources P/L material in preparing the briefing? If so, who and what? Did Marathon supply, or cause to be supplied, any information, if so, to who, how, and what was it?

Chris Schacht, a prime mover in changing SA’s uranium policy joined the board 24 January, as a $300,000 pa non-Executive member, declaring a long held shareholding interest in Marathon Resources. What records of meetings are there between lobbyists and others acting in Marathon’s interests and the government or its officials?

Out of more than 2,400 shareholders, one of the top twenty is now an “undisclosed” shareholder.
Is Marathon listed as a donor, and has it made donations directly or indirectly to any political party?

Why did the Marathon CEO report on 12 March 2007 that “we have essentially the approval of the state government – it’s supported it in every possible way.” Upon what basis was the claim made? Who in, and exactly how did, government provide support and encouragement? What communication and by whom contributed to this observation?

Who has been trading, when, and with what connections to the company, associated companies, and the ALP? Who in or associated with government holds, or has held shares in this company?

The company says on its website: “We have commenced discussions with both State and Federal government departments responsible for mining approvals regarding the necessary permitting process we will need to undertake in preparation for mining Mt Gee. We hope to formally initiate the process shortly. “ (, viewed 28/1/08)

Which officers are involved, what are the details, and what is the timeline for the process to be initiated? Will the Ministers involved declare when it has started, and when it is open for public comment?

What other links are there between government, government officials, and this company with its advocates/lobbyists?

What correspondence, briefings, meetings, emails and other communications have there been between government, government officials and Marathon or its advocates and lobbyists?

Why was CITIC’s representative Chen Zeng left off the most recent list of Directors? CITIC, the investment arm of the Chinese government, has been a major stakeholder.

Why was a new CEO appointed in April?

The potential for intrigue is mind boggling.

The company’s own site reveals some remarkable rises and falls in the stock price; and in the volumes of shares traded.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if some of those trades represented the SA equivalent of WA Inc.

And, or perhaps, some very clever market maneuvering and profit taking from a highly prospective but essentially doomed adventure holding a precious, high profile sanctuary to ransom. Rann could look good banning it, and there’d still be a profit made, by some.

Size of Olympic Dam expansion taken from
The major part of the uranium - about 13,000 t/yr,

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTMLStuart Hall was appointed to the position of Marathon Resources CEO in April 2007. He is a mining executive with 30 years experience -
Who paid?

IF the government is clean, then it must signal its intention to stop mining in this area by:

- Cancelling the exploration license.
- Releasing the full report on rubbish dumped.
-Passing legislation to protect the area from mining in perpetuity.
- Conducting a complete and open inquiry into the activities of Marathon Resources and its associates.
- Releasing the documents it does have related to Marathon Resources and its activities.

No mine. No more desecration of a declared sanctuary. No exploration.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done!!

Great fresh research and writing and just what the doctor ordered! Its so refreshing to see that Australians are taking over responsibilities that our very well paid politicians have failed to fulfill. I believe that this is the new order of things which is the antidote to the earth destroying agenda of the new world order. Thank god thinking Australians are waking up and saying "NO" to the rampant destruction of our natural environment by multi-national corporations which seem to have paid for a 'ticket to ride' through and over our elected representatives in SA and Canberra.

Great Blog! Great Work!