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 -


  1. To make matters worse, scars in this dry environment will take so much longer to heal! And the steep slopes really leave this site open to terrible erosion after the first decent thunderstorm...

    Is the exploration company required to undertake remedial work? If not why not?



  2. Thanks for documenting this destructive activity.

    What kind of world are we leaving to future generations?

  3. Damon,

    The bare bones are as follows -

    Marathon wrote to The Wilderness Society (TWS) wanting the images taken down, claiming an agreement was made not to use any photos taken during an inspection TWS undertook with the company without their - Marathon's - consent.

    TWS forwarded the company's letter to me, but deny making any such agreement.

    Since I wasn't there when any agreements were or weren't discussed, and the shots in question are not actually my photos - it's certainly not up to me to potentially create difficulties for another photographer - I decided to take them down. 'Cheerfully', as I've said. My own photos from Mount Gee, which were taken on a separate occasion, remain online.

    However, I will say that I think it's unfortunate that the visitors to my site should not get the opportunity to fully appreciate what 'mineral exploration' means in this case. As I've said elsewhere, I was shocked and concerned by the impact.

    Speaking as a professional revegetator, I can assure you that it's accepted that the best way to preserve the integrity of any natural system is simply not to disturb it in the first place.

    In such an aesthetically and biologically important region it's a tragedy that the Sanctuary has not been afforded better protection by our governments.


  4. Bill - Are you able to disclose the reasons why Marathon Resources wanted you to take down the offending images of drilling activity? I take it from the fact you agreed to their request that they had some legal backing to their "request"? Anything you can tell us at all?

  5. Bill - Thanks for the additional information, and I hope you didn't feel I was questioning your motives as that certainly wasn't my intention. Given your position I feel I would have probably done the same if I were in your shoes, and I do appreciate the explanation. Let it be for others to judge the motives of Marathon Resources in taking active steps to prevent publication of these images!

  6. NOTE: this dialogue between Damon and myself has annoyingly listed non-consecutively! A little attentive scrolling up and down should sort it out.


    Thanks - I didn't feel at all that you were questioning my motives at all!

    I did feel, however, that I should explain my position with the care required when posting in a public forum, albeit a specialised one like my own blog.


thanks for your contribution - bill - i'm genuinely sorry about having to switch on the 'moderation' process but comment spammers have really been cluttering up this journal!