Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Marathon - Is Schacht a liar or just incompetent?

In a front page article in the national daily the Australian Marathon Chairman Peter Williams claims that Marathon has the "full support" of South Australia’s Rann Labor Government (Australian 7/9/09).

He is referring to Marathon Resources’ plan to eventually mine uranium from within the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

This is similar to a boast made by then Chief Executive Officer Dr. John Santich, back in 2007 that “we have essentially the approval of the state government – it’s supported it in every possible way”.

It seems that a close relationship of the crony variety with the State Labor government has either always existed, or at least, always been claimed by Marathon

Back in 2007 former Labor Federal Senator Chris Schacht (left) was a rather anonymous shareholder. After the environmental vandalism by the company at Mt Gee was discovered, he was elevated to the position of Executive Director.

We have commented many times on his role in lobbying for Marathon.

Most recently, Schacht was interviewed by ABC radio and stated that Marathon had merely “littered” the Mt Gee area by not removing plastic bags from waste before dumping it. He stated that the Mt Gee resource was the second largest uranium deposit in Australia after Roxby Downs, and that the waste dumped at Arkaroola was not radioactive.

The unknownSA blog gives detail on the interview.

Servethepeople makes the following comments:

1. It was not simply a matter of "littering". In addition to 22,800 calico bags containing exploration drill cuttings, there were 1500 empty green plastic bags. These were buried at Mt Gee East together with an "unknown quantity of general personal protection equipment (PPE) and other waste from the Amdel Laboratory in Adelaide...polystyrene tubing, cardboard waste and similar..." (Marathon EL 3258 Rectification Plan p. 6). Additionally, at the Hodgkinson dump, there were 16 steel drums and 4 plastic screw top barrels containing sample pulps returned from the Laboratory.

2. Marathon was not entitled to dump these materials with or without calico, steel or plastic covering. Marathon's own publication Learning from Waste in the Wilderness (p. 6) states that it was required to have "used filter cartridges and PPE in sealed plastic bags placed in steel drums to be then removed from the site and disposed of through the general waste system away from the Arkaroola site". The "excess bulk drill cuttings (should be) principally returned to the drilling hole". Material that could not be returned to drilling holes had to be buried in an adjacent sump and adjacent mud pits and covered with clean fill of up to 1 metre in depth.The emphasis, however, was clearly on the return of materials to drilling holes. Given the quantity of the material, 22,800 calico bags worth, this would have been a costly and time-consuming activity and Marathon chose to ignore it.

3. Chris Schacht claimed that the Marathon Resource was the "second largest" uranium deposit after Roxby Downs. Marathon has never claimed to have been more than the "fifth largest undeveloped uranium deposit in Australia" (CEO letter to shareholders 7 July, 2009). In any case, why should size matter (to coin a phrase)? The issue is that there should not be any mining in the Arkaroola Sanctuary.

4. Chris Schacht claims that the material was not radioactive. It was. It was described as low level by the Chairman Peter Williams on ABC radio on 11/09/08 after the Flinders Ranges Council refused Marathon permission to dispose of about 200 kilograms of material from the Mt Gee site. Williams said "in its current state the waste would not exceed radiation levels found in many naturally occurring circumstances". This material was subsequently disposed of at the Inkerman landfill, making this SA's first government sanctioned radioactive dump. Further, the Marathon rectification plan includes an Appendix D which is a radiation Management Plan. On p. 18 of the rectification plan, Marathon acknowledges that in the clean-up situation of an open air environment, both direct (external) gamma exposure and inhalation of radioactive dusts are matters of concern and lists seven points for reduction of radiation exposure during the clean-up (p. 19).

Chris Schacht is an experienced lobbyist and has, of course, a financial interest, which he acknowledges, in seeking to have Marathon's exploration licence restored.

Either he is deliberately misleading the public of SA, or he genuinely does not understand the issues about which he was interviewed, in which case one would have to question his competence to hold a Directorship in Marathon and to be a lobbyist on its behalf.

The interview with Schacht was prompted by indications from the government that it would renew the exploration licence on October 10 so long as there was no “ground disturbance”.

The comment was made in the Advertiser (29/8/09) that “Once the licence is renewed, the company can continue with exploration activities such as aeromagnetic and radio metric surveys…”

Yet the company declared in its Letter to Shareholders of July 6, 2009, that “we have recently undertaken the following work on EL 3258:

Gravity survey
Heli-magnetometer survey
Stream sediment sampling
Geological mapping
Radiometric survey"

It would appear that renewing the exploration licence would change very little in the way of the company’s activities; rather, it sends the clear message to the company and the community that the state government, which declares itself to be “pro-business, pro-growth and pro-mining”, is indeed holding the door open to eventual mining within the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

Resources Minister Paul Holloway (left) appeared to be justifying further exploration saying in the Advertiser (29/8/09) “all such results add to the state’s repository of geological information”.

Enough is known about what resources exist inside the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

Enough is known about the geological, environmental and tourism significance of the Sanctuary.

The latter outweighs the former.

The state government ruled out uranium mining by Marathon on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

It should allow EL 3258 to expire on October 10, 2009 and introduce legislation, if required, to state parliament to determine, once and for all, that the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary be declared off-limits to mining.

No comments: