Sunday, November 25, 2007

a great day for the australian environment!

HOO BlOODY RAY! - link to the 'another world is possible' set on flickrThe 24th of November 2007 - the day Australians overwhelmingly voted to end the 11 year reign of John Howard's Liberal (read 'conservative' or 'neo-conservative') government.

This is great news for Australian environment !

Not least because the former Government's egregious, arrogant attempts to undermine international climate treaties - sadly largely successful, thanks to the connivance of the Bush administration - on behalf of the coal-lobby will ensure that our continent continues to warm and dry out for decades, no matter what beneficial actions we undertake now!

What a legacy - and what an appalling failure of leadership!

(His government's demise was ultimately sealed, of course, by the bridge-too-far class-warfare of his Industrial Relations 'reform' program!)

With a Labor Government now in Canberra and the Greens holding the balance of power in our Senate there is now much to be done for those who actually value the Australian environment.

And with the Howard government convincingly cast out (and no Liberal Party representative in any office higher than Lord Mayor in any state or territory across the continent!) this is a crucial time to undo the damage wrought by more than a decade of solid federal environmental ignorance.

now is the time to save the river! - link to the katarapko creek and murray river national park pagesOf all the blatant manifestations of the failings of the Liberals the inability to act in the face of the catastrophic collapse of Australia's only major river system was the most striking.

We may - literally - never recover. But we must restore what we can, bearing in mind that the Murray Darling system is not an irrigation ditch and cannot be treated solely as an adjunct to boosting profitability for agribusiness.

Naturally our primary producers are of vital importance, particularly in an era where an awareness of the issue of the carbon impact of 'food miles' is constantly increasing. But the river is a natural system, and will never properly function to support agriculture until it is able to sustain itself as a healthy one. A suffocating obsession with economic primacy is what has led us into the dire situation we now face in the first place!

now is the time to save arkaroola - link to the Save Arkaroola Sanctuary pool on flickrSimilarly, we come to the issue of the major focus of this blog at this time; mineral exploration and the attempt to mine uranium in the heart of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

Howard's defeat and Labor's ascension is a blow to all who would choose to attempt to mine Uranium in a wilderness sanctuary. Not only do the Greens hold the balance of power, one of the new Green Senators is a South Australian, and her party now holds sway along with a feisty South Australian Independent, who would reasonably conclude that the people of SA do not want to see the Arkaroola Sanctuary violated in this manner.

Uranium advocates may well point to the recent 'conversion' of the ALP on the U mines issue. This certainly has some truth. But if they think that that will amount to an endorsement in this particular case, I suggest that they might do well to think again!

Firstly, state Labor need no longer compete for any putative economic 'credibility' with Canberra; a cooperative approach should now be the norm. Consequently I find it hard to conceive of a Labor party flush with an unprecedented victory, and needing to confirm its credentials as an environmental manager, allowing this one to pass, whether at the level of assessment of a state Class A Zone, or regarding the project's approval under the federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

Of course, if state premier Mike Rann had simply intervened swiftly when this mine was first proposed, as he did in the case of the same company making an attempt to prospect for Uranium on the Fleurieu Peninsula last year, everyone - and the sanctuary itself - would have been spared a lot of unnecessary disturbance!

Friday, November 9, 2007

please act for arkaroola - write away!

exploration scarring on both sides of mount gee - link to the Save Arkaroola Sanctuary Pool on flickrThis is a critical time for all those who wish to protect the Arkaroola Sanctuary from the impact of mineral exploration and potential mining.

The South Australian government cannot continue to ignore the damage done to this fragile semi-arid region by Uranium exploration crews operating in the vicinity of Mount Gee. Nor can it hold that these operations will not affect the welfare of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, the ecotourism business that was set up precisely to preserve the natural and historical heritage values of this magnificent area.

The impact of mineral exploration activities is already clearly visible from, and is set to expand further into the region directly adjacent to, the famous Ridgetop Track.

Furthermore, given that the Arkaroola Sanctuary is a Class A Environmental Zone under the Planning Act mining should only be a possibility in truly exceptional circumstances, of 'paramount importance' and in the 'national interest'.

Surely the intention of this legislation was to completely protect the area - particularly from mining given its history - unless an extremely unlikely situation arose; such as a particular mineral, vital for national defence, being only available to be mined in Arkaroola?

Marathon's project, a mere 30km or so from the operating Beverley in-situ leach mine - itself poised to expand significantly - and only one in a state awash with Uranium projects, hardly fits the bill!

Certainly, Marg Sprigg, owner of Arkaroola, has said that she felt relief when the property became a Sanctuary, as she felt that it was now fully protected. Unfortunately the actions - or inactions - of our state government indicate that in this belief she was sadly deluded.

why should this have happened?

Marathon claim that they will 'rehabilitate' this site. As a professional revegetator I remain extremely skeptical of the claim that any such efforts can ever really hope to restore a natural ecosystem. In fact, the mining industry is one of the few arenas in which such claims are made with confidence. In my industry its clearly understood that the best way of preserving an environment is not to disturb it in the first place!

Additionally, Arkaroola is in its 9th consecutive year of drought, and scarcely needs another set of pressures on already highly-stressed ecosysytems.

mount painter from the ridgetop track adjacent to mount gee - link to the 'save arkaroola sanctuary' pool on flickrBut arguing the toss about 'putting it all back' is not the point. The real question is - why should this have happened in the first place? Why should this magnificent area suffer this intrusion at all? Shouldn't the owners of Arkaroola Sanctuary, and the people of South Australia - and Australia - be entitled to think that this region has been set aside to be preserved for posterity, to be disturbed no longer? And why should the mining industry be able to impact so dramatically on a tourism icon and the ecotourism industry generally?

As to the oft-touted idea of the eventual mine's being underground, and accessed from outside the sanctuary, and thereby 'barely noticeable', I remind you that Stuart Hall, Marathon's recently departed CEO, told ABC Radio National in early October that they were also considering a shaft 'in one of the gorges', and a trucking route and/or conveyor and/or slurry pipeline across the ranges to deliver ore to their processing area. In the circumstances the safest way to preserve the integrity of the area is simply to disallow the mine.

please - write now!

Please write to The Minister for Mineral Resources Development, Paul Holloway MLC, telling him that rather than an expansion of exploration you would like to see the crews removed from the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, and the area completely and permanently protected from mining. An example letter is attached below. Please, if you write, attach a copy of your letter as a comment below, or simply send it to me and I'll post it as an example for people to cull ideas from.

Correspondence can be addressed as below. As usual, I'm sure you are aware of the need to please be polite, and respectful in tone. and, also as usual, your letter doesn't have to be long or brilliant, it just has to be on the minister's desk!.

Bearing in mind the above, please personalise your letter as much as you can, as at this level of campaigning the impact of correspondence that has clearly been deliberated over by the individual writer is greater than that of obviously duplicated material. It doesn't have to be completely unique, just unique enough.

Much other information about the area and the proposed mine, along with pictures of Mount Gee and the surrounding region, can be found on this site. I also recommend the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary's own site's take on the issue.

if you only write one letter a year in response to this kind of appeal, i urge you to consider making it this one!

Hon. Paul Holloway, MLC

Postal Address
GPO Box 2832

Office Number +61 8 8303 2500
Fax Number +61 8 8303 2597



My letter to the Minister for Mineral Resources Development. Emphasis for the purpose of this posting has been added by me:

The Hon. Paul Holloway. MLC
Minister for Mineral Resource Development
via e-mail.
Friday 9th November 2007

Dear Minister Holloway,

I am writing to you asking you to call a halt to Marathon Resources’ Mineral Exploration operations at Mount Gee in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

You have recently written to me in indirect reply to a letter I had written on the topic to your colleague Gail Gago, in her capacity as Minister for Environment and Conservation. This letter attempted to assure me that nothing untoward was happening at Mount Gee, but, having visited the site, I simply cannot agree and feel I must object strongly.

I remind you that The Advertiser reported on the 20th of September this year ‘[a] spokesman for Mineral Resources Development Minister Paul Holloway said it had been made clear to the company any proposal must not ``impact on the environment, heritage and tourism value of the area''. And that your reply to my initial letter reads, in-part, as follows; ‘[i]n recognition of the environmental sensitiv[it]ies of the
region, the Department of Primary Industries and Resources (PIRSA) closely monitors and regulates all exploration companies operating in the region, including Marathon Resources' exploration program and activities on EL3258’.

I suggest that significant impacts in all three of the categories mentioned above have and are occurring, and are only likely to deepen as exploration expands.

It seems to me that there are two ways in which Marathon’s current extensive earthworks and drilling program at Mount Gee can be viewed:

Either these activities constitute mineral exploration Best Practice, in which case I would argue that there is no place for Best Practice Exploration in our sanctuaries and high-value conservation areas. Or they do not constitute Best Practice, in which case it is almost inconceivable that this should have been allowed to continue in the heart of such an aesthetically and biologically valuable area and in one of the
nation’s most prominent ecotourism destinations.
(Accordingly I have copy-forwarded this letter to Tourism Minister Jane Lomax Smith.)

I’m quite confident that a majority of South Australian – and other Australians - would agree with me.

A number of photographs of these operations – by no means a definitive survey, but certainly indicative - are available at I also urge you to make your own inspection of the area.

Extensive exploration scarring is clearly visible from the famous Ridgetop Track tourism route and to anyone availing themselves of the range of scenic flights offered over the sanctuary. I remind you that the area is already extensively affected by a record 9 years of unbroken drought, and scarcely needs the
burden of additional environmental stresses.

I am further frustrated in that I fail to see how any eventual mine can be allowed in this Class A Environmental Zone. I feel that your government’s construing of a mine at Mount Gee as being of ‘paramount importance’ or ‘in the national interest’ would not be accepted in the community.

This is particularly so given the number of other Uranium mines either operating or on-line to do so in the state, most notably approximately 30km away from Mount Gee at Beverley! (Not to mention the new 4 Mile deposit.)

I also do not feel that merely stating that a formal application to mine hasn’t been received by your government yet, as you do in your letter, is a satisfactory response in the circumstances.

My previous letter mentioned the issue of the Company’s proposal to mine via long access shafts coming from outside the Sanctuary. Having attended a meeting at Marathon’s office where company executives explained this process I cannot say that I felt overwhelmingly persuaded of its economic - or physical – viability. And I want to make clear that Stuart Hall, outgoing CEO for Marathon, told ABC Radio’s Bush Telegraph that they were also considering an access shaft ‘running to the head of one of the gorges in the area’, and a trucking route or slurry pipeline or conveyor (through the Wilderness Sanctuary!) to their processing facilities only a week after this meeting.

This is precisely the kind of intrusion and uncertainty that neither the environment of the northern Flinders Ranges, nor the operators of the Sanctuary, can afford.

Would you care to operate a ‘Wilderness Sanctuary’ that you have extensively promoted as an ecotourism destination with the prospect of an intrusive and expanding exploration program, and a mine that may introduce major shafts, pipelines, conveyors and/or haulage routes hanging over your head? Particularly as the general public – and potential traveller - becomes more aware that this is the case? Little wonder then that the Sanctuary’s owners have publicly stated that they ‘don’t want a mine, of any description, on Arkaroola’.

I wish to strongly support their position. I remind you of the Sanctuary’s success at the SA Tourism awards only this last Saturday, and suggest that this is not the way to treat a ‘Hall of Fame’ icon, and one of our state’s most prominent tourism businesses.

To paraphrase I suggest that ‘We [the majority of South Australians, and indeed Australians] don’t want a mine, of any description, on Arkaroola’!

I urge your government to announce the cessation of these activities as soon as possible.

Yours Sincerely,

Bill Doyle

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Walk - and Vote - Against Warming!

Walk Against Warming 2007 - link to the WAW website

Now is a critical time to let the next Australian Government know that we want to see the issue of climate change taken seriously!

So, on Sunday the 11th of November please join us for the Walk Against Warming - in Adelaide we assemble in Victoria Square at 12.30pm, and walk to Elder Park.

For further details and information on regional and interstate marches please visit

We can ill afford another term of biological ignorance at the federal level

We particularly cannot afford to have the party of a man who will actually go down in history as one of the major obstacles to effectively dealing with the contemporary world's greatest environmental crisis having a strangehold on the senate

I have no idea why anyone would vote for 3 more years of brown coal and eroding awards! But, whatever you do, please don't vote for the Liberals in the Senate!

responsibility for election comment is taken by bill doyle, largs bay

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Greens push to end mining in Sanctuaries - and Arkaroola's case

the latest Arkaroola Sanctuary newsletter highlights the damage done by mineral exploration - link to the 'From the Ark' newsletterBelow is an excerpt from Greens MLC Mark Parnell's speech to the State's upper house on the 17th of October introducing his National Parks and Wildlife (Mining in Sanctuaries) Amendment Bill of 2007. The Bill seeks to remove provisions allowing for mineral exploration and mining in Sanctuaries, and was specifically drafted in the face of the threat to Arkaroola sanctuary.

As can be seen by following the link to the latest Arkaroola Sanctuary Newsletter at left, and by examining my 'Arkaroola - would U mine it?' photoset on flickr, mineral exploration continues to damage this fragile mountain wilderness, already under severe stress from the ongoing drought.

My bill seeks to amend the sanctuary provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act in two key areas. The first of those areas is that a sanctuary can only be de-proclaimed — or undone, if you like — by a resolution of both houses of parliament which have been given 14 sitting days' notice. This brings sanctuaries into line with other parts of the conservation estate... At present, the minister can simply revoke the sanctuary declaration at any time.

Also, if the landowner requests revocation, then the minister must revoke the sanctuary status. The problem with the current arrangements is that the wishes of those who seek to protect important habitat can be undone easily by either the minister or future owners... The principle, stated very simply, when it comes to the conservation state is one of 'easy in and hard out'. In other words, it should be relatively simple to add to the conservation estate. It should be more difficult, but not impossible, to remove such areas.

I now come to the second part of my bill, and there are really only the two operative provisions. The second part is to prohibit mineral exploration and mineral extraction (or mining) in sanctuaries. At present, there is no legal impediment to mining in declared sanctuaries...

It will come as no surprise to honourable members that the motivation for my bringing this bill to parliament today is the proposal for uranium mining in the Mount Gee area of the Arkaroola wilderness sanctuary in the northern Flinders Ranges. For those who are not familiar with this area, Arkaroola is 600 kilometres north of Adelaide. It covers an area of 610 square kilometres. The wilderness sanctuary features rugged mountains with towering granite peaks, magnificent gorges, ancient seabeds and life-sustaining waterholes. The sanctuary is home to rare and endangered species, including the yellow-footed rock wallaby and the short-tailed grass wren. Arkaroola has become a leading ecotourism destination, and offers more than a dozen Advanced Ecotourism accredited tours, including the famous Ridgetop Tour that thrills patrons with its four-wheel drive trek through steep and spectacular scenery. The Arkaroola wilderness sanctuary, as members may know, was the winner of the 2005 and 2006 South Australian Tourism Awards for Ecotourism, and also the 2006 award for sustainable tourism. Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is undoubtedly South Australia's premier eco-tourism destination. What is the proposal that has so concerned conservationists in relation to Arkaroola? The proposal for uranium mining is at the behest of Marathon Resources.


The Arkaroola sanctuary has a real history in South Australia. Members will be aware of the heritage of the Sprigg family, who have been responsible for that area. The current owners and operators, Margaret and Douglas Sprigg, say on their website that they are deeply disturbed by the Marathon proposal. They say that they do not want a mine of any description on Arkaroola. Their father, prominent South Australian geologist and conservationist Reg Sprigg, purchased Arkaroola in 1967 and, with his wife Griselda, transformed the former sheep station into the multi-award winning wilderness sanctuary that has become an outback tourist destination icon. The Spriggs say — and I agree with them:
"While we are not against mining per se, the thought of the uranium mine right in the heartland of this fragile but spectacular landscape is abhorrent to us."

They note on their website that, because the land is a pastoral lease and only has sanctuary status, they do not see that there are any legal grounds, or that it is difficult for them, to prevent uranium mining. That begs the question: what is the value of sanctuary status if it cannot be used to preserve these important areas as sanctuaries? That is not the only status this land has. It is also part of Australia's national heritage: Mount Gee is on the Register of the National Estate. It is also a class A conservation environment under South Australia's development system. That begs the question of how we properly manage and protect this area.

The full text of Mark's speech is available here -

The Bill itself is available here -

All Mark's links on the issue are available here -

From the Ark - Arkaroola Sanctuary newsletter spells out their case against mining.

The Spring 2007 edition of the newsletter of the Arkaroola Sanctuary spells out their case against the mine, and provides a wealth of background information on the geology and biology of the area. It features some disturbing images of the damage wrought by current exploration activities, which can also be clearly seen in the 'Arkaroola - would U mine it?' photoset.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

unwanted, unsightly and frankly unbelievable - marathon in arkaroola

what would be a radioactive slurry pit at mount gee -  link to the 'would U mine it?' set on flickrIf this is what the exploration phase is like, imagine the mine!

One might think that if a company was to be undertaking controversial exploration work in a highly-sensitive environment with a view to establishing a very large mine that company would go out of its way to minimise its impacts while it was doing so.

Not so, apparently, in the case of work being undertaken by Marathon Resources in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. Perhaps they feel that with the state government uncritically praising the mining boom to the skies acceptance of their project is a foregone conclusion.

This is a no way to treat an environmental and tourism icon! I was genuinely shocked, having been exposed to a good deal of the Department of Mineral Resources Development's propaganda regarding best-practice exploration. Little wonder the Sanctuary's owners, Doug and Marg Sprigg, want no part of the company's proposed mine!

ridgetop tour vehicles on the ridge opposite mount gee, overlooking the exploration area- link to the 'would U mine it?' set on flickrThis work is being undertaken directly adjacent to the route of the famous ridgetop tour. Extensive scarring is already visible from the tour vehicles in the basin lying to the east of Mount Gee, and exploration is due to expand there as this is the company's main target region.

The company says that it intends to establish the mine underground, using a giant tunnel they'll run in from the fringes of the ranges. We'd scarcely know they were there! Well, there'd be ventilation tunnels and emergency exit shafts! No, they couldn't say how many. Or just what this rather implausible scenario might cost.

scarring plainly visible from the ridgetop track, more activity is due in this area - link to the 'would U mine it?' set on flickr But would it all be underground? We were told this at a meeting I, along with representatives from The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation, attended at the Marathon's Adelaide offices on the 24th of September. But by the next week the company's CEO wasn't so sure, telling ABC Radio's 'Bush Telegraph' that they might install a shaft 'in the head of one of the gorges' with a trucking route - or even a conveyor - to reach their processing area on the plains! Through the wilderness sanctuary! Perhaps this was due to the recent $20 per pound fall in the price of Uranium?

At any rate, judging by their efforts so far one must have little confidence in the company's respect for the area, or their ability to manage their exploration crews' impact in this delicate semi-arid environment.

And no-one who has visited this area with eyes unclouded by dollar signs could fail to be impressed by it's majestic wildness, and its eminent suitability to remain what it is now, a sanctuary preserving this unique environment and the rich range of species associated with it.

For more images from the Mount Gee region see the 'Would U mine it?' set on flickr -

(also available as a slideshow from the page, or go straight to it here -

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Arkaroola back on the ABC's Bush Telegraph

The winner of this years Bush Telegraph national 'Australian Rural Icon' competition was the Arkaroola Sanctuary.

Now the sanctuary is back on the ABC - but in circumstances they would would rather have avoided.

Hear Arkaroola's Marg Sprigg and Marathon Resources' Stuart Hall discuss the proposed Mount Gee Uranium mine on the ABC Radio National Website, whether as an mp3 download or via streaming.

(the program dated Wed 3rd of October)

I will be in the district all next week, and hope to be able to provide my own photographs of the target area.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"We don’t want a mine – of any description – on Arkaroola": the Spriggs' Press Release

link to the arkaroola wilderness sanctuary websiteArkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary threatened by uranium mine

The world-renowned Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary in South Australia’s spectacular Flinders Ranges is threatened by a proposed uranium mine.

Adelaide-based minerals exploration company Marathon Resources Ltd will seek a permit to mine almost 45 million tonnes of mineralized ore to produce 900 tonnes of uranium a year.

Arkaroola’s owners and operators, Margaret and Douglas Sprigg, are deeply disturbed by Marathon’s proposal. “We don’t want a mine – of any description – on Arkaroola”. Their father, a prominent SA geologist and conservationist, Reg Sprigg, purchased Arkaroola in 1967. With his wife Griselda, Reg transformed the former sheep station into the multi-award winning wilderness sanctuary that has become an iconic Outback tourist destination.

“While we are not against mining per se, the thought of a uranium mine right in the heartland of this fragile but spectacular landscape is abhorrent to us.”

“We realise that because Arkaroola is on a pastoral lease we have limited legal rights to stop mining. So we are calling on State and Federal governments to help us preserve this ecological and geological wonderland and refuse uranium mining permits within Arkaroola’s boundaries”.

Arkaroola is located in a Class A Environmental Zone. This zone was created to protect places of environmental significance such as Arkaroola. Development within a Class A Environmental Zone is only permissible where the deposits are of such paramount significance at a state and national level, that all other environmental, heritage or conservation considerations may be overridden. Development of a uranium mine at Arkaroola’s Mt Gee, a Geological Monument, would contravene Class A Environmental Zone conditions.

Uranium deposits, of national and state significance, are currently being developed on the plains east of Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary by Heathgate Resources, and by BHP Billiton at Olympic Dam.

Through sensitive management the Sprigg family has conserved this unique part of the world for more than forty years. “Over four decades our late parents developed this remote sanctuary at huge financial and personal cost. Their life’s passion was devoted to conserving a very special part of our land for everyone – Australians and overseas visitors alike. Our parents understood that controlling access and restricting all development, including the road network, to the periphery of the property was necessary to effectively conserve its rich ecological assets. We deeply respect their vision and their achievement and we are committed to maintaining Arkaroola’s integrity.”

Margaret Sprigg said the fragile nature of the Arkaroola environment would be severely impacted by mining of any kind. Rehabilitation of disturbed sites due to mining operations would be extremely difficult to achieve in such mountainous terrain, exacerbated by climate change. It would take decades, perhaps centuries for the land to recover.

Arkaroola is 600 kilometres north of Adelaide and covers an area of 610 square kilometres. The wilderness sanctuary features rugged mountains with towering granite peaks, magnificent gorges, ancient seabeds and life-sustaining waterholes. The sanctuary is home to rare and endangered species including the yellow-footed rock wallaby and the short-tailed grass wren.

It has become a leading ecotourism destination and offers more than a dozen Advanced Ecotourism accredited tours, including the famous Ridge Top Tour that thrills patrons with its 4WD trek through steep and spectacular scenery.

Doug and Marg Sprigg
Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary

'Uranium Company Targets Wildlife Sanctuary' - Advertiser 20/09/07

image (c) DEH 2007: yellow-footed rock wallabies in the northern flinders - link to the mawson plateau feature imagesAlso posted as 'Mine Plan threatens Wallabies'

Publication: The Advertiser (015,Thu 20 Sep 2007)
Edition: 1 - State

URANIUM will be mined at a Flinders Ranges wildlife sanctuary if a project by mining company Marathon Resources is approved.

The company has lodged an application for environmental assessment with the Federal Environment Department to mine 43 million tonnes of uranium oxide at Arkaroola Sanctuary.

Arkaroola Sanctuary is a 610sq km area on a pastoral lease the leaseholders have dedicated to conservation and eco-tourism.

The land is home to the threatened yellow-footed rock wallaby and reptile and plant species in danger of extinction. Arkaroola was granted sanctuary status by the State Government in 1996. This does not ban mining.

Marathon Resources believes the Mt Gee area in the sanctuary is one of Australia's largest undeveloped uranium deposits. It says it will minimise the environmental impact.

Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear-free campaigner David Noonan said any mining in the sanctuary would be disastrous.

He said the habitat would be damaged by such infrastructure as haulage roads as well as the mine itself. Radioactive waste and radiation also would be damaging.

``The Premier set a precedent to prevent the same company from undertaking exploration work when he thought it would affect Fleurieu Peninsula,'' he said.

A spokesman for Mineral Resources Development Minister Paul Holloway said it had been made clear to the company any proposal must not ``impact on the environment, heritage and tourism value of the area''.

Bill Doyle's note:

Clearly, the only way not to "impact on the environment, heritage and tourism value of the area" is not to allow the mine to be established in the first place.

This is so blatantly obvious that one wonders why Mr. Holloway goes through the absurd and tiresome charade of pretending that it might be possible to have a cake and eat it too!


Mine plan threatens wallabies

GOT SOMETHING TO SAY in response to this? - Write Now to the Advertiser reminding them that the only way to guarantee the values of the Sanctuary are preserved is to prevent the mine from being established in the first place! You can post a response online here by following the link above and scrolling to the bottom of the page, or send a letter to the Advertiser via the link in the drop down menu under 'Opinion' in the navigation bar.

My letter to the Advertiser in response to this article. Feel free to use this as a basis of your won letter - but please don't simply copy it!:

Regarding Marathon Resources proposed mine in the Arkaroola Sanctuary. (ADV 20/09/07)

Your arttcile states "[a] spokesman for Mineral Resources Development Minister Paul Holloway said it had been made clear to the company any proposal must not "impact on the environment, heritage and tourism value of the area"."

Clearly the only way to guarantee the preservation of the magnificent Arkaroola Sanctuary is not to allow the establishment of this mine in the first place!

Why has the State Government not simply rules this project out, as it did when the same company attempted to prospect for a Uranium mine on the Fleurieu Peninsula last year?

No hypothetical 'pot of gold' - or Uranium - is worth the destruction of any portion of this wonderful area.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

ACF calls on State Govt. to rule out Mount Gee mine

The Australian Conservation Foundation are calling on the SA government, Premier Mike Rann and Environment Minister Gail Gago, to rule out this proposed uranium mine just as the Premier ruled out uranium exploration & mining proposed by the same company near Myponga on the Fleurieu Peninsula in Nov 2006. The Premier should equally respect and act on community interest in protecting the high conservation value Mt Gee area in the northern Flinders Ranges from mining impacts as the he did in recognising and protecting the Fleurieu.

Mt Gee is within the Arkaroola Sanctuary, a gazetted Sanctuary under the SA National Parks and Wildlife Act an a key Eco-Tourism area in SA, and adjacent to the Gammon Ranges National Park. Features of the proposed mine project area include the charismatic yellow footed rock wallaby, a nationally listed threatened species classified as “vulnerable”, and Great Artesian Basin springs listed and protected as an “endangered ecological community” under Commonwealth environment legislation.

Marathon propose an underground hard rock mine, with consequent waste rock management issues, a new significantly impacting heavy haulage road across the Sanctuary to transport some 2 million tonnes of radioactive ore a year to an as yet undisclosed leach processing site, that would have significant liquid and solid tailings waste management and potential acid drainage problems.

The company propose the mine to operate for 13 years producing a claimed 1 000 tones of uranium a year, although the site is reported as having only some 2 000 to 3 000 tonnes of “indicated” uranium present ( a category with a more confident status) and up to 27 000 of “inferred” uranium a much more speculative classification.

Note - that the SA Env Minister has a full power of veto over this uranium mining proposal under the Radiation Protection and Control Act for which she has direct Westminster style responsibility.

See the Marathon Resources Pty Ltd Mt Gee Uranium Mining Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act referral dated Friday 14th Sept and application document (in two parts) via this EPBC link

David Noonan,
Anti-Nuclear Campaigner, Australian Conservation Foundation

I will be posting excerpts from the remarkable EPBC application, our first real look at the scale of what the company is actually proposing, and its likely impacts, to this blog shortly,

Bill Doyle

Friday, September 14, 2007

first response; environment minister not responsible...

Arrived 14/09/2007

"Dear Mr. Doyle,

On behalf of Gail Gago MLC, Minister for Environment and Conservation, thank you for your email concerning mining in Arkaroola Sanctuary.

While the Minister appreciates receiving your letter, I advise that this matter falls within the portfolio responsibility of Hon Paul Holloway MLC, Minister for Mineral Resources Development and your correspondence has been forwarded to that office for consideration.

Denise Kean
A/Office Manager to the Minister for Environment and Conservation

In response to correspondence available below: now is the write time! - run marathon off

Monday, September 10, 2007

one month of deafening silence - and a tale of two premiers!

looking towards mount painter from the summit of freeling heights, arkaroola sanctuary - link to the mawson plateau feature imagesIt's been a month since I put out the call asking people to write to the Premier and the Environment Minister requesting that they clearly state that their government will not support a Uranium mine in the heart of the Arkaroola Sanctuary.

Some people have been asking me if I have received a reply. No, I haven't. To the best of my knowledge, no-one has. If you have, please tell me, and forward a copy to me if you can.

Let me remind you, Mike Rann was very quick to jump in when the same company was looking to prospect for Uranium of the Fleurieu Peninsula last year. Not while he was Premier, he announced. And rightly so.

He has consistently portrayed his as an environmentally enlightened and progressive government. I suggest that any such claim would swiftly evaporate in the face of backing such a project, and Cabinet is well aware of this. So, Mike, when will you assure us that such environmental recklessness, targetting Mount Gee, Mount Painter, and Uranium Ridge will not be possible on your watch?

Or will we return, yet again, to the point where there is little of substance to distinguish Labor policy from Liberal policy?

Speaking of which, shortly I intend to attend a briefing on the Mount Gee project from one of its proponents - former South Australian Liberal Premier Dean Brown. He hopes to convince the environmental movement that we can have the mine, and the sanctuary will be little affected.

Frankly, this is extraordinarily hard to believe.

If you share my skepticism, write and ask the Premier why he doesn't simply intervene and proclaim the notion of a mine an impossibility. Just as he did last year when it was the Myponga region that was threatened.

Because, while Myponga is a charming part of the world, no government worth its environmental salt could hope to argue that it was more ecologically valuable than the stunning wilderness sanctuary of Arkaroola.

Contact details and sample letters are available via this link -

now is the time - run Marathon off

Further info is available via the links at right.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

ABC news - Federal Govt. 'shouldn't consider' mines' long-term impact

Australian Broadcasting Corporation News online
22nd August 2007

[ Emphasis added by Bill Doyle. Otherwise this is such a blatant example of the kind of high-handed arrogance going hand-in-hand with breath-taking ignorance we have come to expect from this federal government on matters of the environment that further comment is scarcely required! ]

"The Federal Government is fighting legal action from a lobby group, which alleges it has failed to properly assess the Anvil Hill coal mine in the New South Wales upper Hunter Valley.

The Federal Government approved the mine, west of Muswelbrook, after the State Government gave the project the go-ahead last month.

The Anvil Hill Project Watch Association has challenged the decision in the Federal Court, alleging the Government has failed to recognise a link between the mine and global warming.

But lawyers for the Government have argued the mine's emissions will be insignificant and will not contribute substantially to global warming.

They have also argued the Government is not obliged to consider the cumulative impact that coal mines like Anvil Hill may have on the environment.

The court is expected to hand down a decision next month."


original ABC News article

anvil hill alliance

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mike Rann: will u save us from the serial U miners?

worth saving: myponga reservoir - link to the mount lofty ranges and fleurieu peninsula set on flickrIn October last year, Marathon Resources - the same company that currently proposes to open a Uranium mine in the heart of the Arkaroola Sanctuary - delivered notices requiring exploration access to about 20 properties on the Fleurieu Peninsula near the Myponga Reservoir, in order to prospect for Uranium.

The company's Dr. John Santich explained; "Down there at Myponga we've known since we put in the application that it was highly unlikely that we'd ever get a permit to mine, even if we found what you call a viable deposit which would have to be massive and very rich," he said.

"Nevertheless it's worth exploring, it's worth getting that knowledge."

The locals were understandably unhappy at the prospect, 'unlikely' or not, and Mike Rann swiftly intervened, announcing that his Cabinet "would never approve a uranium mine anywhere near the Myponga Reservoir". As it shouldn't.

In November of that same year Fleurieu residents were calling for a complete ban on uranium mining on the peninsula. An ABC article of the period notes that while Marathon would not be doing any exploration on the Fleurieu, the Mineral Resource Development branch of the Dept. of Primary Industries would! They too apparently believe "it's worth getting that knowledge". Just out of interest. After all, it might be "massive and very rich"!

The Advertiser (18/08/07) has just reported the departing head of the Environmental Protection Agency's advice to the state government. Dr. Paul Vogel stated that the mining boom would confront "difficult" environmental, social, economic, and equity issues;

We will need a really good policy framework so we don't trade off the extinction of a species for the export of uranium, for example.

Hear hear.
not worth saving?: the arkaroola sanctuary - link to the mawson plateau feature images

While Mr. Rann clearly acknowledges that a good policy framework does not allow uranium miners in the Myponga catchment, surely he cannot believe that allowing a Uranium mine in the heart of the Arkaroola sanctuary constitutes good governance?

As Dr. Vogel says, lines will have to be drawn. And if a landscape of the calibre of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary isn't firmly placed in a 'safe' zone, what can we hope would be protected?

Mr. Rann, the company is not up there merely sating its curiosity. It intends to mine, if you let it. A responsible government must not sacrifice the jewels of our unique natural heritage in a headlong rush to be "the Saudi Arabia of Uranium" (Mike Rann, 17/04/07)


Write to the Premier and Environment minister asking them to halt the Arkaroola project now. See the 'Now is the Write time' article in this journal for details.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

'Marathon Man' - Independent Weekly 11-17/08/07

Bill Nicholas - Adelaide Independent Weekly, CBD section, 11th-17th August 2007

[Abridged version and all emphasis in the following article is by Bill Doyle - see link at bottom for the original text]

"Adelaide-based mineral exploration company Marathon Resources has a new leader at the helm. Anybody who's been to the northern Flinders Ranges knows the breathtaking sight across ancient red rocks to the shimmering salt pan of Lake Frome is a very special place.

Just north of the Arkaroola Sanctuary, the Mt Painter, Mt Gee and Paralana Hot Springs provide an amazing place to refresh after an overdose of civilisation -- in the mountains you can be free to wander the goat tracks, the wonderful creek beds, enjoy the sparkling night skies and especially the priceless views.

So how ironic is it that it's also the site of a uranium deposit currently worth in the vicinity of seven billion dollars -- that's $7000 million...

During WW2 uranium ore was dug out from around Mt Painter and strapped to the backs of camels that walked across the mountains on camel pads to the railway at Copley where it was sent on its way to the US atomic war effort.

In the late '60s a Brisbane outfit, Exoil NL, bulldozed tracks up East Painter Gorge, around Mt Painter to Mt Gee and up Radium Ridge, where drilling rigs discovered the extent of the uranium orebody that Mawson and Sprigg had been prospecting decades before.

Exoil geologists decided that, while the original orebody lay quite close to the surface in the mountains, over millions of years the rain had washed enough of it out to the plains on the edge of Lake Frome where, predictably enough, the Beverley uranium deposit was developed.

CRA, now Rio, reworked the area in the early '90s but relinquished the area there following the collapse of uranium prices at that time.

Marathon Resources' ...picked up the exploration licences for the northern Flinders Ranges area several years ago as the market for uranium (and the listed players) was beginning to revive from a 20-year slumber.

...Three months ago Santich hired Stuart Hall, from BHP Billiton, as managing director...

[Marathon] is planning an underground horizontal drive that snakes into the mountains from the plain near the East Painter Gorge. It's about a 10km trip so the plan is to mine deposits that are closest to East Painter and gradually make their way into the Mt Gee, Armchair and Radium Ridge orebodies. Processing would be done at East Painter Creek -- either a heap leach or a tank leach to produce 1000 tonnes of U3O8 a year -- giving the deposit a life of 15 years...

Next year will involve a pre-feasibility study, followed by a feasibility study in 2009 and construction scheduled to begin late that year.

...[Y]ellowcake will be produced by the Mt Gee mine...Areva and BHP Billiton are the likely customers for the Mt Gee yellowcake which will then be shipped direct to probably European nuclear reactors.

Hall said uranium prices had been helped along by the end of the stockpile of weapons-grade uranium which had finally run out after 20 years of its supply to the nuclear industry.

There had been massive over-production of the mineral during the '60s and '70s and, following the end of the Cold War and the decommissioning of nuclear weapons, had seen the conversion of uranium from missiles into the fuel cycle.

"This supplied about 50 per cent of the uranium needed for reactor fuel so now that has come to an end, we are seeing uranium prices reaching record levels," Hall said.

"With only 50 per cent of the uranium supply coming from mines, production needs to double over the next five years," he said. "Because it takes at least ten years to build a reactor, the demand for uranium can be predicted with some certainty." - "


full article at the Independent Weekly online

Don't think the Arkaroola Sanctuary is an appropriate place for a Uranium mine? Got your doubts about the 'sustainability' of leach pits or tanks on the East Painter creek? What happens to the 'overburden' (i.e landscape) if it turns out not to be 'economic' to use the giant shaft?

Let the state government know your concerns - see the 'now is the write time - run marathon off' article, here or at right.

I have appended a letter to the Environment Minister taking into account this new information as a comment (#7) below this 'write now' article.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

now is the write time - run Marathon off!

split rock on the mawson plateau, arkaroola sanctuary - link to the mawson plateau photo set
The heart of the Arkaroola Sanctuary is not an appropriate place for a Uranium mine. Despite claims that are being made about the environmental benefits of nuclear power and the recasting of Uranium as a 'clean, green' fuel, this central fact remains.

In fact, the sanctuary is not an appropriate place for a windfarm, solar tower, or geothermal plant (developments whose environmental benefits are much less open to question than the nuclear industry's).

It is a perfectly appropriate place for what it is - a wilderness sanctuary, managed for conservation and sensitive tourism - and we need to be active in insisting that this is the role it continues to play.

act now to preserve the sanctuary

Marathon, the would-be wilderness miners, are claiming state government support for their project (see Marathon to run in Arkaroola Sanctuary in this journal) We need to tell the state government that we do not support this kind of development. Please take the time to write to the Premier and the Environment Minister (contact details below) telling them so.

I have put a copy of my own letter to the Premier below by way of inspiration. A letter does not have to be long, but the more personalised it is, the more weight it carries. So please feel free to extend, abridge, or modify my letter, or write your own from scratch. Naturally there is more information available in the 'marathon to run' posting referred to above, and available at right in the July archive.

Please do structure the letter formally, with full addresses for parliamentarians and yourself. Letters can be sent by e-mail, either in the body of the text, or, more formally - and probably more effectively - as a separate Word document or PDF attachment.

And remember the golden rule - always be polite (and reasonable in tone)!

let's see your letter, too!

For the sake of getting together several examples of letters for people to get ideas from please feel free to either e-mail them to me to post on this blog, or post the body of the text (we don't really need to repeat addresses and salutations, nor do we need to publish your address!) into the comments section below this posting.

And yes, this is an effective lobbying technique - I know from previous discussions with (not always delighted) Environment Ministers! The UnknownSA mailing list has previously been integral to some of the largest and most successful mass-mailing campaigns in the state's history, and we have a fully-protected, mine-free Gammon Ranges / Vulkathunha National Park and the half-million hectare Yellabinna Wilderness Protection Area to show for it!

Dear Premier Rann,

I am writing to you as I am concerned that the mining company Marathon Resources claims that it intends to mine Uranium at Mount Gee, in the heart of the Arkaroola Sanctuary - a beautiful region of immense biological significance that I consider to be a completely inappropriate venue for such a project.

I am genuinely alarmed that this group claims to have state government backing for it. According to the company's Dr. John Santich on their website 'we have essentially the approval of the state government'.

I sincerely hope that this is not the case. The company may not 'see any particular stumbling blocks to its development', but I certainly can - this project is being proposed for the heart of South Australia's premier private wilderness sanctuary! This is an internationally famous eco-tourism destination of immense importance, and Mt. Gee itself is only 2km away from Mt. Painter, the most well-known peak in the northern Flinders Ranges.

I urge you, if the company's claim is true, to retract any support you may be giving this project, and, if not, to publicly disassociate your government from it. I am confident that for the majority of South Australians this proposed assault on an icon will not be acceptable, despite any of the contentious 'benefits' being claimed for the Uranium it may produce.

Yours Sincerely,

Bill Doyle

Thanks in anticipation of your efforts on behalf of the environment. Here's those addresses -


The Premier The Hon. Mike Rann

Write: PO BOX 2343 Adelaide SA 5001
Phone: 8463 3166
Fax: 8463 3163


The Minister for Environment and Conservation
The Hon. Gail Gago MLC

Write: GPO Box 1047 ADELAIDE SA 5001

Phone: 8463 5680
Fax: 8463 5681


Friday, July 27, 2007

meanwhile at the four-mile...

The northern Flinders Ranges and Arkaroola Sanctuary area is very much a hotspot (literally) of mineral activity at the moment.

Firstly we have Marathon Resources' exploration activities at Mount Gee in the centre of the sanctuary, as described in the previous post. But less than 20km away on the fringe of the ranges Quasar and Alliance Resources have been whooping up their finds at the Beverley Four Mile (so named because it is 4 miles away from the currently operating Beverley in-situ leach Uranium mine.)

Alliance Resources and joint venture partner Quasar Resources have extended the strike length of its Four Mile East uranium prospect by over 900m and have taken the next step to secure a mining lease over the project.
MINING NEWS 26/07/07

Alliance Resources is a 25% partner in the exploration project with 75% owned by Quasar, the exploration arm of Heathgate Resources, the operators of the Beverley mine, and themselves a division of US corporation General Atomics.

The struggle to attract investment in a highly competitive field tends to lead to many mining companies favouring the hyperbolic approach when describing their projects. However, given the proximity to existing, potential and historical uranium mines, and radioactive springs, we should probably pay attention to the company's pronouncements -

Alliance has signalled previously that high-grade uranium hits at the discovery indicate potential for it to eventually be the biggest uranium deposit of its type in the world (roll-front, sandstone hosted).
THE AGE 03-04-2007

Certainly, this project is not focussed in the heart of the ranges as the Marathon / Mt Gee project is. But it is focussed on the outer foothills of the northern Flinders, immediately below the stunning Mawson Plateau.

below freeling heights, mawson plateau - see photo on flickr

As with Mount Gee, few who appreciate the beauty of the northern Flinders would savour the prospect of haulage roads and other infrastructure encroaching on the area to service mining operations. A cluster of projects in the area make any new project more attractive, as precedents for 'development' have been set, and infrastructure costs may be shared (or doubly 'justified' if actually paid for by government.) This is inevitable with any sort of mine or similar operation - if open-cutting we would also need to consider the appalling scar on the landscape.

And many South Australian understandably hold serious misgivings about the safety of the in-situ leach mining technique ( essentially the underground pumping of an acid and oxidant mixed with groundwater in order to 'mobilise' Uranium; hardly sounds risky at all! ) as practised at Beverley, particularly concerning the danger of the contamination of aquifers in this fragile, remarkably beautiful semi-arid region.

The picture at the top of this article shows the proposed mining area, as taken from Alliance's own website (where it is simply labelled 'target area - Uranium.'


Alliance Resources Uranium

Heathgate Resources (information on this site is not particularly current)

Friday, July 6, 2007

marathon to run in arkaroola sanctuary?

the burning bush, arkaroola - see photo on flickr

Marathon Resources Ltd. is proposing to mine Uranium at Mount Gee in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary in the Northern Flinders Ranges.

Mt. Gee is approximately 6km north of Arkaroola Village and 2km west of Mount Painter [the most famous peak in the northern Flinders], right in the heart of the sanctuary and the internationally famous tourist area.

According to the company "Mt Gee has an inferred resource of 45.6 million tonnes averaging 680ppm U3O8 (cut-off grade 300 parts per million), yielding 31,250 tonnes of contained U3O8."

To quote from the company's Dr John Santich:

"Marathon’s deposit is ideally placed in terms of both its ore and its development potential. It’s in a province where there’s infrastructure nearby, we’ve got a good team, we’ve got the right sort of ore, we’ve got the right sort of tonnage and we have essentially the approval of the state government [emphasis mine] – it’s supported it in every possible way.

We’re well aware that there haven’t been uranium mines developed in South Australia for a couple of decades. And we don’t see any particular stumbling blocks to its development."

Stumbling blocks the company might wish to consider include the proposed mine being right in the centre of South Australia's premier private wilderness sanctuary! Not a minor concern, surely? But no matter; according to the company's website - in the 'sustainability' section - they "will consider all the environmental and social issues which need to be managed to enable an acceptable operation with minimal negative impact."

(Note the typical language inflation inherent in the 'sustainability' claims now routinely made by all of the more intelligent mining companies. How can digging a non-renewable resource out of the ground - once, and once only - ever be described as 'sustainable' in any meaningful sense? Simply; it can't.)

And those justly skeptical of mining companies' frequent claims of support from various levels of government may want to consider that Minister Paul Holloway - the state minister for Mineral Resources Development - just opened [Friday 20th July 07] their official new offices at 235 Port Road Hindmarsh. The company certainly seems confident of the SA government's backing;

"But with Mt Gee located in a state with a favourable regulatory environment for the uranium industry, Marathon is confident of developing this key asset to the benefit of all stakeholders."

"For the benefit of all stakeholders" may perhaps be translated more honestly as "for the benefit of all shareholders". Many stakeholders in the area, such as those who wish to see it left in its current near-pristine condition, may find it hard to perceive the benefit of a large-scale mining operation and its associated access roads and haulage.

There are echoes here of the earlier proposal to mine the nearby Weetootla Gorge in the Vulkathunha (Gammon Ranges) National Park, where the proponent company explained that even thought they proposed haulage access through the gorge, and the demolition of the hill forming its northern wall, they didn't think they would actually 'affect' it[!].

Marathon's claims are more sophisticated, but the inherent tension between areas of high conservation value and mining operations still remains...

"The Company is committed to exploration and mining with minimal environmental and social impact, recognising that its social license to operate depends from the outset on maintaining an environmental and social balance that is as close to original as practicable."

...should this mine proceed the word 'practicable' may be left to carry a lot!


marathon resources

Those wishing to see the project as presented by the company itself should view marathon's project video