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


  1. I am writing to ask you to stop Marathon Resources’ Mineral Exploration operations at Mount Gee in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

    My family and I spent seven days at Grindell’s Hut in the Gammon Ranges in the 3rd term school holidays of this year. We drove and cycled through the various gorges and over these breath-taking ridge tops. We found this experience both humbling and moving. One of the few antidotes a person can have to the pressure-cooker life in the city. Our children visibly expanded in the dignity of this landscape. Discovering the tranquillity in this harsh environment enabled our family to put some of our material concerns into perspective.

    We would like to express our opposition to any more mining operations in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

    I understood this region to be classified as an “A Class Environmental Zone” in which case how is it possible that it is available to the types of intrusion so obvious from the scenic flights offered by the Arkaroola resort? We were shocked that such extensive earth works were permitted in these fragile and precious places.

    Finally we would like to share with the minister that our family is hoping to make regular pilgrimages to these secret sites in order to revisit and reflect upon the changes time inscribes upon us as individuals and as a family. We feel that the sense of timelessness the natural environment imposes on us in the Gammons can aid us in healing and constructively process the stresses of modern living. I do not know how to value this experience, but I do know it far exceeds the financial return of the proposed mine.

    Yours truly,

  2. 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.

    I have visited the Arkaroola Wilderness Reserve several times in the last 30 years with family and overseas visitors, enjoying the beauty and untouched wilderness of this area. I have become aware of the proposal for a uranium mine at the reserve. The extensive exploration scarring is clearly visible, and it is difficult to understand how such proposal can be accepted.

    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, and I am sure that no other Australian would like a mine of any description on Arkaroola. Any Australian knowing about this project would be aghast, and I am sure would be opposed to have such an Australian Heritage destroyed. This wilderness and beauty could never be restored. It is our LEGACY!

    I urge your government to announce the discontinuance of these activities as soon as possible.

  3. Dear Minister Holloway,

    Thank you for your recent letter regarding mining activities at Mount Gee in the Arkaroola sanctuary, however I am compelled to write to you again to express my continuing concern regarding your government's silence on the matter of Marathon Resources ongoing uranium exploration work in the area based on some extremely concerning damage recently done on site.

    Reg Sprigg himself, the founder of the sanctuary and an avid supporter of the mining industry in general, would surely have had serious objections to not just the exploration work itself, but to the insensitive way it is being carried out (I have seen the scars, and they do no credit to the mining industry's claim to be careful stewards of the landscape). Arid landscapes, especially on such rugged ground, are incredibly easy to scar and erode, and may take centuries to recover. Climate change may well make the landscape, already sensitive to cycles of flood and drought that have nothing to do with 'business cycles' or the 'resources boom', even more fragile.

    Surely this is a paradoxical situation that cannot be allowed to proceed - especially when it threatens the very wilderness values that the 'ridgetop track' has made world famous. Having done the 'Ridgetop Tour' on two occasions I can assure you that having operational mine workings in my view would not be part of my 'wilderness' expectations! The damage this mine could do to our national and international environmental credibility is surely way out of scale with the expected mineral returns, which themselves seem to be based on very optimistic development costing and the expectation of continued high uranium prices.

    To me, the Wilpena analogy is apt. If this deposit had been found in the middle of Wilpena Pound, any attempt to develop it would have been met with outrage. Of course Wilpena is an internationally recognised national park. Arkaroola, while the recipient of multiple (and recent - just in the last few weeks!!) tourism awards, and worthy of dedication as a national park on biological, geological, cultural and aesthetic grounds, seems to be remote enough and 'safe enough' politically to be ignored despite its status as a 'Class A Environmental Zone' under the Planning Act.

    I concur fully with the Sprigg family's recent objection to the exploration, as aired on ABC rural radio, and:

    -respectfully ask that you make enquiries as to the standard of 'rehabilitation' work currently in evidence on the project site, and call a halt
    -respectfully ask that any proposal to develop any mine within the sanctuary be rejected

    To avoid hypocrisy, the alternative would seem to be the removal of Arkaroola's class A environmental status.


    Phil Bagust

  4. Dear Minister Holloway,

    I am writing to express my opposition to the Exploration operations at Mount Gee in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary being carried out by Marathon Resources.

    The Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is one of the most significant conservation areas not only in South Australia but in the nation.

    Considering that the effects of the exploration activities are already visible as significant scars on the Arkaroola landscape, the effects of a full-scale mining operation are unthinkable. If the exploration activities constitute mineral exploration Best Practice, I would suggest that there is no place for Best Practice Exploration in our sanctuaries and high-value conservation areas. Alternatively, 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.

    Further, considering that other uranium mining operations are either underway elsewhere in the State, or due to commence, it is entirely unnecessary to allow the destruction of Arkaroola.

    I find it hard to conceive that the operations being carried out by Marathon Resources constitute activities of paramount importance and national interest, as required for activities in an environmental Class A zone such as Arkaroola. Surely the safeguarding of this biologically diverse and aesthetically stunning piece of wilderness for future generations is of significantly greater national interest.

    I urge your government to call an immediate halt to the mining exploration at Arkaroola.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Amy Ralfs

  5. Dear Minister Holloway

    I am writing to you to express my deep concern about the current mining exploration, its possible extension and the possibility of future uranium mining in the Arkaroola Sanctuary.
    The Arkaroola Sanctuary is such a unique, beautiful and also very fragile place, which will suffer irreversible damage if it is disturbed any further. It is a place which needs to be preserved in its natural state and beauty for future generations.
    I do not believe that the short-term financial gain of selling uranium will make up for the long-term loss of the intrinsic value of this magnificent South Australian Heritage site.
    The South Australian Tourism Commission has worked hard to promote this State as a ‘green and clean’ tourist destination. The award winning Arkaroola Sanctuary eco tourism development is a prime example of this effort and attracts numerous overseas and interstate visitors. I have personally recommended the Arkaroola Sanctuary to many of my overseas visitors over the years. I fear that continued mining exploration in the Arkaroola Sanctuary and other places of natural heritage will have an irreversible impact on South Australia’s reputation as a tourist destination.
    As a concerned South Australian resident, I urge you to immediately stop any further exploration in the Arkaroola Sanctuary and to place a blanket ban on any future mining activities in this area. I sincerely hope that my children and grandchildren, as well as many generations of future visitors to this State, will be able to experience the Sanctuary’s exceptional undisturbed beauty.

    Yours Sincerely

    Caren Siegfriedt

  6. Dear Minister Holloway,

    I am asking you to call a halt to Marathon Resources’ Mineral Exploration operations at Mount Gee in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

    I am not going to write paragraphs and paragraphs on what they are doing and shouldn’t be doing in that Sanctuary and the resulting devastation. You know this already and, if not, there are plenty of better-qualified Australians who have written to you expressing their alarm and wish that it stops – now.

    I do not know how many times we have to learn the lesson that big business, whose only aim is to make money, cannot be left to manage and protect our fragile and ever-dwindling natural resources. Yet, in this year alone, we have two tragic and potentially disastrous instances where this beautiful country is threatened by big business and greed: the Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania and the exploration of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary in South Australia.

    It is heartbreaking that this devastation is a result of Labor Government policy. What happened to the party that saved the Franklin River and fought against the abuse of this country by all forms of big business?

    It is time to show some courage, Minister.

    Please save the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary – before it is too late.
    Yours sincerely

    Susan Gerrard

  7. Dear Mr Holloway,

    The Jury is out on Arkaroola. The area is far too precious to damage and disturb any further and it must be protected for eternity.

    The mine operators have proven time and time again to be irresponsible 'cowboys' and are certainly not the type of company that should be encouraged to explore or mine within the state. They are thieves, vandals and consistent liers and its time for them to be fined and sent on their way.

    Marj and Doug have done a wonderful job protecting and show casing this area for the people of the world and they deserve support and praise for their efforts, not the barrage of vandalism that has been thrust into the ranges by Marathon Resources.

    Australia and the rest of the world squander energy on many meaningless pursuits and China is a machine mass producing plastic rubbish that ends up as landfill. The state is building a reputation building alternative energy infrastructure and should focus on these long term endeavours which will enhance the state and the planet. The short term money grabbing activities of uranium mining cowboys will be noted by history as a wasteful use of resources and not conducive to sustainable mining or industrial development.


    Nigel Carney


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!