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