Sunday, July 24, 2011

Arkaroola - victory at last!

On Friday 22 July 2011 the long-awaited announcement that mining would be banned forever in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary was delivered by premier Mike Rann.

This is a huge victory.

Marathon Resources, which holds an exploration licence within the Sanctuary, and which was aiming to mine uranium, had major connections and influence.

Its two main shareholders were the late Queensland coal mining magnate Ken Talbot and the China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC).

Talbot was a shonky operator and was facing corruption charges relating to jailed Queensland politician Gordon Nuttall just before his death. CITIC is the major state-owned investment arm of the Chinese government.

Marathon has strong ties to influential people within the Labor Party. Executive Director Chris Shacht is a former Labor Senator. Former Federal Labor MP John Quirke is a lobbyist for Marathon and has made donations to SA Labor through his company Pallidon Pty Ltd.

Nevertheless, these connections and this influence ultimately counted for nothing in the face of strong community opposition to the prospect of mining in the Wilderness Sanctuary.

That opposition came from communists, Greens, sections of the traditional custodian Adnyamathanha community, rank and file Labor supporters as well as some within the conservative Liberal Party.

The announcement is better late than never.

However, there is still a need for careful scrutiny of the Rann plan. For example, nowhere in the official Rann press release is Arkaroola correctly referred to as the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. It is simply referred to as the Arkaroola “region” and Arkaroola “area” and in one place only as the “Sanctuary”.

A Primary Industries and Resources Department map showing the area to be saved by special legislation and recommended for World Heritage listing does not entirely align with the current Sanctuary borders.

The status of brother and sister Doug and Marg Sprigg who jointly operate the Sanctuary is unclear. They are merely referred to as the “pastoral leaseholders” and the press release refers to the government “actively examining options for the future conservation management of the Arkaroola Sanctuary”.

However, we can now celebrate the end of a four year campaign of blogging, pickets and rallies secure in the knowledge that the game is well and truly up now for Marathon and its shareholders.

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