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