Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Short-tailed grasswren another Arkaroola rarity

Arkaroola despoilers Marathon Resources have just released the results of recent drilling that shows an unexpected 100 metre expansion of uranium deposits at Mt Gee.

Unfortunately for them, the Australian bird-watching website Bird-aus has jumped on board the anti-mining cause, pointing out the dangers that mining would pose to the very rare short-tailed grasswren.

(Photo copyright G. Chapman)

When you add to the grasswren the threat posed to the yellow-footed rock wallaby and to various tree and plant species, then surely it's time for Premier "Mike the Miner" Rann to step in and put Maraton shareholders out of their misery by saying that there will be no mining in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

The Bird-aus post follows:

"There is a mystical mountain in the remote North Flinders Ranges in South Australia known as Mount Gee http://www.arkaroola.com.au/mt_gee.php It is an arid wilderness mountain within Arkaroola /Mount Painter Wilderness Sanctuary and is located in the heart of the spectacular igneous and metamorphic formations characteristic of the Northern Flinders.

Mount Gee is part of the geological area known as Mount Painter province, one of the most highly mineralized areas for its size on earth. Although the mineral diversity of the area is huge, the mineralisation is minimal and commercial mining has rarely occurred there except for a few small copper mines that failed early last century and the Mount Painter mine where limited amounts of uranium were extracted for the Manhattan Project during the Second World War.

The surface of Mount Gee comprises acid soils with outcrops of quartz crystal and granite. There are underground water chasms with crystal amethyst lined walls; deep underground formations that are known to breathe when atmospheric pressure systems pass. High on the mountain there are cliffs of rugged highly mineralised granite porphyry where prehistoric bat caves exist. The terrain is spectacular, rugged and remote, covered with woodlands of native pine, mallee and acacia interspersed with dense areas of triodia amongst which scattered clumps of xanthoria, cassia and eromophila shrublands thrive. This is one of the most delicate, beautiful and spectacular arid range areas that exist.

Importantly, this area is the centre of abundance; the heart of distribution for Short-tailed Grasswren Amytornis merrotsyi, a rare and restricted South Australian endemic bird and close to the site where it was discovered. Significantly the Mount Gee/ Mount Painter area is also the main Flinders Ranges breeding area for Little Woodswallow and Painted Finch and also where uncommon species such as Broad-tailed Thornbill and Redthroat are common. It is also a major habitat for Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby.

There is now a proposal to mine uranium on a vast scale at Mount Gee by a company known as Marathon Resources Ltd. Unfortunately there is no possibility that mining development could proceed in this area without causing massive destruction. The area and its wildlife is vulnerable to almost every impact of mining, (see 1 below) not to mention major damage that would occur to the visual amenity.

Destructive mineral exploration occurred here in the late 1960's and early 70's.
See http://www.sea-us.org.au/oldmines/mtgee.html
Exploration activity was halted by the SA Government then because of environmental concerns. This area is so delicate, it has never properly recovered from the onslaught of only 100 drill holes in 1972. (Significantly although traces of uranium were found, no worthwhile deposits were discovered)

Arkaroola was purchased as an under-developed pastoral property for the sole purpose of natural protection and conservation by Dr Reg Sprigg and his wife Griselda in 1968. Since then, with more than 40 years of competent management by the Sprigg family the area has remained well protected. The area and its wildlife is seriously threatened by this development proposal.

If you are interested in helping with this issue, please read http://www.arkaroola.com.au/mining.php and consider your response.

And how would I know any of this? Arkaroola was once my home too and where Pat and I raised our children. The natural values of this area and its importance to the nation far exceed any short term economic benefit from exploiting its mineral wealth.

Thank you

Ian May
St Helens Tasmania

1. Impacts from mining relate to threatening processes that vary according to species and location affected. As I see it, threatening processes from mining that will affect species occurring at Mt Gee include; regular human presence near vital habitat such and available water, disturbance, modification and pollution of natural water points, vibration, noise, road kill, major erosion, impeding water flows, downstream fines pollution of waterholes and watercourses, competition for naturally occurring level and open areas, blasting, chemical pollution, vegetation removal, major dust source, rubbish.

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