Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Rock Star: The story of Reg Sprigg

Several books have been written about South Australian geologist and miner Reg Sprigg.

The latest, Rock Star: The Story of Reg Sprigg, promises to have more of an insider’s feel about it. Author Kristin Weidenbach is married to Reg’s son Doug who, with his sister Marg operates the Arkaroola Wildlife Sanctuary in the Northern Flinders Ranges.

Nearly 200 invited guests attended the book launch last night at the SA Museum. They were greeted by banners reading “Save Our Sanctuary” and calling for mining company Marathon Resources to be kicked out of Arkaroola. And with the exception of one or two Marathon people, they all enthusiastically took proffered leaflets calling for the honouring of the vision of Reg Sprigg (see below).

Significantly, Prof Ian Plimer, a noted advocate of uranium ming, stopped to offer words of encouragement.

"I'm all for uranium mining, as you know. But not here! Not in this place!"

The Sanctuary was created by Reg and his wife Griselda, with the support of long-time friends such as Sir Douglas Mawson, in recognition of the unique geological properties of the location.

As a staunch proponent of mineral exploration and the exploitation of resources such as gas, petroleum and uranium, Sprigg was nevertheless cognizant of the need to protect significant sites of geological and environmental importance, and established the Arkaroola Wildlife Sanctuary as the state’s first eco-tourism resort.

Unfortunately, this has not stopped other mining companies from trying to get in and extract uranium and other minerals from Arkaroola. The area around Mt Gee is honeycombed with exploratory drilling.

Marathon soiled its pants when it secretly buried a variety of wastes and drilling samples. Some were in 44-gallon drums. The most significant dump contained 22,800 plastic and calico bags.

When these were discovered, Marathon’s exploration licence was suspended indefinitely by the State government which described them as “cowboys”.

Marathon was required to clean up the site, and is trying to convince the Spriggs and the public that it has also cleaned up its act.

But it is running into trouble. Its government-approved clean up plan included taking the drums to the Leigh Creek Waste Facility. Despite the fact that Leigh Creek is itself a mining town (coal), it wanted nothing of the Marathon waste which includes low level radioactive material.

The nearby town of Hawker has apparently been approached by Marathon and must now decide if it wants to host SA’s first radioactive dump.

Marathon is also likely to have trouble with the so-called “grizzlies” – rigid framed mesh stands - through which they apparently intend to pour the contents of 22,800 bags, allowing them to separate soil from non-soil refuse.

This is going to be a nightmare for whoever they can sucker into operating the grizzlies. The dust would be unbearable even if it wasn’t radioactive. (A better method, although just as dusty, would be to use an oyster tumbler, but who am I to try and help them out!)

Anyway, the share price has been languishing at a very low 70 cents, so guess what, we get another “resource upgrade”! The last one was on June 10, so it’s pretty much time for another one so, just by coincidence, on the same day as the book launch, Marathon puts out some positive spin, some more incremental estimate increases designed to push the company line that this “confirms the Mt Gee uranium project as one of Australia’s largest undeveloped uranium deposits.”

And there’s more, but it “will only be determined by further drilling”! Hint, hint Premier Rann - we can make you and the state look good if you lift the suspension on our licence!

These guys are just unbelievable!

But it has pushed the share price up to just over a dollar today. That's business....

Here’s the leaflet from the book launch. The only change to note is that Shad Lynley is now one of Ken Talbot’s boys, so Denis Wood (one of the two who up until now have represented Talbot interests on the Marathon Board) has moved on as surplus to requirements.

No doubt back with more later........

Honour the Vision of Reg Sprigg:

No mining in Arkaroola!

Arkaroola was created by Reg and Griselda Sprigg as a privately-owned Wilderness Sanctuary in the northern Flinders Ranges and is one of the icons of tourism in this State.

It has a fragile eco-system and has been central to the successful program for saving the yellow-footed rock wallaby from extinction.

It is part of the traditional lands of the Adnyamathana people.

It is situated in the vicinity of the Paralana Fault Line and is subject to regular seismic activity.

Marathon Resources holds an exploration licence to drill in the Sanctuary. The licence was suspended indefinitely following Marathon’s violation of the terms of the license at three sites, Mt Gee, Mt Gee West and Hodgkinsons, and they are held responsible by PIRSA for damaging a unique fluorite occurrence at Mt Gee which they had been told to avoid in their drilling.

Approval was given last month to a plan that requires Marathon to remediate these sites. Marathon intends to seek the lifting of the suspension and wants to resume drilling.

We want the government to keep the suspension in place until the expiration of the current licence and then not to renew it. They must then protect Arkaroola with legislation that bans further exploration and any mining.

There are reasons for believing the government may go wobbly and not protect Arkaroola.

It is going all-out to woo the business community. It ignored its traditional support base over the WorkCover issue and badges itself as “pro-business, pro-mining and pro-growth”. It is just as likely to ignore environmental and tourism interests in order to prove its pro-mining credentials.

Marathon has powerful backers and retains people of influence on its Board.

Former State ALP President and Federal Minister, Chris Schacht has held shares in the company for several years. He helped overturn the SA ALP’s “no new mines” uranium policy. After the “dumping” scandal, he was given a Board position so that his contacts could be used to the company’s advantage.

One of its major shareholders is Ken Talbot of Queensland’s Macarthur Coal. He was under investigation for making payments of $300,000 to a Labor Minister who subsequently voted for a project that benefited Macarthur Coal’s Coppabella Mine Project. Two of his employees, both involved with the Coppabella project, work with Marathon.

Marathon has also had to answer several “please explain” letters from the Australian Stock Exchange which have hinted at insider trading and other market irregularities.

Although Marathon badges itself as a locally-owned company, another major shareholder is the China International Trade and Investment Corporation (CITIC). The Chinese paid a heavy price for their own liberation from imperialism and should not now start bankrolling activities that ignore the feelings of the Australian people.

A recent Board appointment is Dr John (Shad) Lynley, CEO of the Korean-owned Sun Metals Corporation which, according to Marathon, is “the world’s most efficient and environmentally sensitive zinc refinery successfully built and operated on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.”

With Lynley’s input, Marathon has “set a new course for change”, apologizing profusely for its past mistakes. The “new course for change” includes feeding the community with the company’s new-found “concern” for the environment and seeking to “build a better relationship with Mr and Ms Sprigg.”

In other words, it has not given up and believes that the orientation of the government towards the business and mining community can be turned to its advantage and enable it to resume drilling and ultimately to win approval for mining.

We must keep the pressure on Rann, Foley, Holloway and co. to ensure Arkaroola’s protection.

Support the call to ban mining at Arkaroola!

Marathon must get out and stay out!

You can help by writing to the Premier, Mike Rann, in support of these demands, and by checking the following websites for information and updates including possible picketing of the Marathon AGM in November:


http://mike-servethepeople.blogspot.com (hit the Arkaroola link on the right hand side)

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