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