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.