Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Marathon drilling suspension - a victory for whom?

The South Australian Government and Marathon Resources appeared to be playing the card game “Snap!” yesterday, with each releasing their own press releases in quick succession.

It was Marathon, however, who hit the table first with a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange announcing that it had “essentially completed currently authorised drilling activity at Mt Gee” in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

“With our normal exploration cut-off looming, we have completed sufficient drilling to enable us to conduct the next exploration phase, including environmental and other studies…”

Referring to the State Government’s investigation into the company’s burial of ore samples, drilling cores and domestic waste in shallow pits at Arkaroola, the statement disingenuously remarked that the Government “is expected to release its findings to State Parliament this week.”


It’s pretty obvious that someone in Government or one of its departments like PIRSA, which services the mining industry, had leaked to Marathon not only the timing of the release but also its contents.

Because a little later in the day, the Government did indeed issue a press release to the effect that Marathon, having breached its exploration license, was suspended “indefinitely” from proceeding with further exploratory drilling.

Well, big deal! Marathon has already got in first and told that ASX and its shareholders that it had no need to continue drilling and was voluntarily ending the drilling program itself. By the time the Government release hit the press, its punitive “indefinite suspension” was an empty gesture.

Smart, quick-thinking by Marathon, which is still being looked after by someone on the inside.

And in any case, even without Marathon’s pre-emptive curtailment of drilling, where is the sting in an “indefinite suspension”? “Indefinite” means “can be resumed after the heat dies down”.

What the Government should really have done is cancelled the company’s exploration license and made a public declaration that it would not support any Marathon application for a mining licence within Arkaroola.

In that sense, Marathon has had a victory. No wonder it is proudly trumpeting its “continued mine planning work”.

All it has to do now, according to Resources Minister Paul Holloway, is “safely excavate all the unauthorised buried drill sample material and return the site to, as close as possible, the original conditions.”

Marathon must be laughing.

“Marathon remains as committed as ever to the Mt Gee uranium project, one of the largest undeveloped uranium deposits in Australia,” Marathon Chairman Peter Williams said yesterday, in a press release that came hot on the heels of the Government’s

No comments: