Sunday, February 10, 2008

Marathon Resources shares - home of the hollow-headed mock wannabes

One of our objections to the exploration for, and proposed mining of, uranium yellow-cake in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is the threat that such mining would pose to the fragile habitat of the rare yellow-footed rock wallaby.

The wallaby is native to a small area of rugged hill country in South Australia and New South Wales.

Petrogale xanthopus is one of the brightest members of the kangaroo family. The upper body parts such as the head and face are a light brown-grayish color, shading to more grayish on the rump of the wallaby. A dark brown streak starting from the ears comes down to the middle of the back connecting with brown patches on the yellow limbs of the wallaby. On each of its cheeks is a white stripe with yellow on the back of the ears. The head and body are about 20-30 inches long, the tail is 15-28 inches long, and the weight of the wallaby is about 6-20 pounds.

NSW designates the yellow-footed rock wallaby as an endangered species. There are only two breeding colonies, within about ten kilometres of each other.

The intervention of a successful breeding and relocation program for the wallabies based at the Adelaide Zoo has seen a recent turn-around in numbers in the wild in South Australia (see graph below), although this is very much dependent on continuing control of introduced predators and the maintenance of the integrity of the wallaby’s natural habitat.

The re-establishment of breeding colonies in the Flinders Ranges has seen the IUCN lower the wallaby’s endangerment rating to VU (vulnerable).

Arkaroola is host to about 35 breeding colonies of the rock wallaby.

The near extinction of the yellow-footed rock wallaby can be credited in the first place to the ignorance of the region’s worst feral predator - the white colonial settler. A report in the Australian newspaper in 1883 bylined “The Flinders Ranges”, reports that “The best sport we had was in firing at the rock wallaby from the seat of the buggy, and watching them fall down the cliffs. Fourteen we saw fall, some were wounded, but before reaching the bottom were pretty well dead. One in particular had a soft and lucky fall and came to die at our horses’ feet. We were indeed loathe to leave so pretty a spot. We gazed and feasted our eyes on natures handiwork.”

The naturalist Thomas Ward noted in the early 1880’s, ”...the Rock-wallaby is by far the most abundant of the animals, and yet it is a much persecuted creature. Rock-wallaby shooting is a favourite sport with all classes of colonists.”

Arkaroola has a fragile arid environment set in a wild and beautiful rugged mountain range country.

One of its main supporting factors in the preservation of the wallabies is its inaccessibility. Tourist access is limited and the sanctuary operators restrict movement to a couple of 4WD tracks that provide spectacular ridge-top views.

The issuing of exploration leases to mining companies has significantly degraded the environment in parts of Arkaroola. Extensive drilling has disturbed the ecosystem, and current leaseholders have been caught out disposing of ore samples and domestic waste in shallow pits that have caused further damage.

None of this seems to worry the corporate big boys or the yuppie investors who are buying into Marathon Resources.

China, whose giant panda is the symbol of the World Wildlife Fund, is a major shareholder through the state-owned China International Trade and Investment Corporation (CITIC), as is Queensland coal mining magnate Ken Talbot, currently up on charges of bribing politicians in his home state.

But it is in the chat rooms of the stockbrokers, private equity consultants, corporate lawyers and other associated inheritors of parental wealth that we see a continuation of the mentality of the colonial shooting parties of the 1882.

The issue was first raised on Aussie Stock Forums on March 20, 2006 by “kgee” who warned fellow investors that Mt Gee within Arkaroola was a ”no go zone” for mining because “it is a major haunt of the until-recently rare yellow-footed rock wallaby”.

The warning elicited no particular response. Indeed, investor complacency was buoyed by “mmmmining” who posted on 17 October 2006 that he had spoken with Santich, the managing director of Marathon, and that there “is no particular problem with environment, site access, water resources…”

A note of caution was injected on April 7, 2007 by “dj_420” who queried why Paladin Resources was looking to buy into Summit Resources and not Marthon. “That is the big question,” he wrote, “everyone should be asking. I personally think it has to do with heritage area of mt gee and the yellow footed rock wallaby!”

On 13 April, “Halba” responded, noting that Marathon’s proposal was for a tunnel outside Arkaroola, and underground mining of uranium: “I don’t see wallabies inhabiting underground areas”.

“mmmmining” returned to the fray the following day, this time quoting the exploration director of a Canadian company that was looking to invest in Australian uranium. When asked why Marathon stock was in a deep price discount, the unnamed director gave three reasons, the first being: “False environment concern. A lot people mistakenly think Mt Gee is in a Natural Reserve, on Heritage List, or too remote. The most accurate description is that is on National Estate list for some natural beauties, and good access to infrastructure. There is no legal prohibition to mining activities because of National Estate Status. $10bn in ground value of Mt Gee deposit can get most environmental issues cleared because it is significant to SA state interest. Mining in Mt Gee is not a possibility, it is a SURE thing, and it is SUPPORTED BY SA GOVERNMENT NOW. Premier has mentioned MTN, along with AGS, CUY and PNN in recent speech as potential uranium miner” (capitalisation as in original).

Two days later, “Brujo” added, “I’ve seen this ‘underground’ aspect mentioned a couple of times and I’m not sure what relevance it has in relation to environmental/ecological issues. An underground mine will produce almost the same disturbance as an open pit mine. It’s all the other surface infrastructure which occupies the space.”

This view was disputed by “Kimosabi” on April 30: “who says the ore has to be processed at Mt Gee. Dump the ore in a truck and drive it down to Beverley (avoiding as many Wallaby’s [sic} as possible) for Processing and refinement.”

"kennas” came in on May 2 with the mock groan: “Aaaaaah, the infamous and extremely important Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby, without which our way of life will cease to exist! :banghead:”

Later that day “kennas” posted a reply from Marathon Corporate Affairs Director Belinda Yates to his query on Mt Gee’s environmental status.

Yates’ very reassuring reply (“kennas” also quotes her indirectly as indicating that given Premier Rann’s position on uranium mining, the proposal to mine in Arkaroola was “a fair chance to get through”) led “Insider” to post, “Good work people….I hate it when the environmental issue pops up every time…But it seems to be easily crushed…”

“kennas” disagreed that opposition would be “easily crushed”, however. He wrote “MTN are going to have to prove that mining is either: 1. Not going to effect the environment significantly, and especially that little yellow footed rat, or whatever, and/or 2. That it is of ‘paramount importance to the State’. Now, given that Mike Rann is out there pegging ground himself, he probably would think the royalties/taxes flowing into the State coffers are of ‘paramount importance’.”

“kennas” must have been stewing over his investments versus the environment for a while after that, for on 16 July 2007 he posted, “Seems they have to go for underground mining to satisfy the tree huggers unfortunately. Real shame, because the yellow footed rock wallaby isn’t really THAT cute. They’re in Zoos for Gods sake, why do they need to stay at Mt Gee!” And again, on August 1, he wrote “Personally, I think this is a very significant mine to a State pro uranium, and will overtake the importance of the yellow footed rock wallaby. Unless PG gets his nose in the way” (PG being a reference to the then Federal Labor Oppositions environmental spokesperson, former Midnight Oil lead singer Peter Garrett).

On 22 January 2008, “kennas” came back online to bemoan a sharp fall in Marathon share prices: “The company and its directors are in deep doo doo by the look. Lucky I was just playing technicals as there was some uncertainty in Mt Gee ie, a Red Footed Booby Reserve or something…..”

And the final word in the chat room (as of today) from “Insider”, dated 24 January, “better move our money somewhere else…”

So there we have it.

Out of 1145 comments posted in a chat room on the topic of Marathon and its proposal to mine uranium at Mt Gee in Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, a total of a dozen or so (or around one per cent) bother to discuss the environmental aspects at all, and most of those are in quite disparaging terms.

Such are the ethics and morals of the hollow headed mock wannabes who pursue personal gain through the stock market!


Anonymous said...

The feasibility of a tunnel being linked to the plains east of Mt Gee, under and around Painter is hogwosh - more misleading information to the shareholders..such tunneling would cost in excess of $2 million per kilometer and Marathons estimates of how long such a tunnel wld be are absurd...the mine is a monumental lie to the market as was Goldstreams...the question that needs to be asked is when is the consortium going to be investigated and held to account?

John said...

Brilliant expose. No one can tunnel that country for $100m/km, let alone what Marathon can raise. It would wreck the country anyway. That's why they are trying to prove they have a big deposit - by shifting from inferred to indicated reserves. They hope to prove that they have a project of major economic signifcance so the lackey/compromised govt will permit mining.

nigel said...

The average yield is .07%...beverley is over 5%..beverley is accessible, Mount Gee is not...over 10,000 plastic bags were dumped on the site and a rare fluorite deposit gutted from Mount Gee...ecological theft...this is beyond Garretts stinky hands..on the criteria shown to me by heritage this could never be approved in a pink fit...the issue beyond and above this is that uranium is being taken under the guise of exploration and damage is being done but the government is silent. There is no benefit from this Rann Mining sideshow...royalties dont even cover environmental damage and lack of regulations should be attracting a lot more international media attention.