Monday, January 21, 2008

would one of mike's minders please buy him a map?!

a map for mike rann - link to the larger version on flickr
Mr Rann denied that uranium exploration was happening in the Arkaroola sanctuary, saying it was in "an area nearby".

Questioned whether he would rule out mining in the sanctuary, he replied: "There's an exploration licence going on right now and it's in an area outside the area that people are talking about in terms of a national park, so the answer is no."

The Australian 21-01-08

So, Premier Rann, Marathon Resources' uranium exploration program at Mount Gee isn't in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, it's 'nearby'?!

Actually, Mike, it's bang in the centre of the sanctuary, and directly adjacent to - and visible from - the route of the famous Ridgetop Tour.

And the only person who appears to be confused about any claims of 'National Park' is you - though that's the level of protection this area clearly deserves, and the sanctuary's owners thought they had afforded it!

( Though in South Australia even National Park status is no guarantee of safety - the Gawler Ranges National Park, for instance, is literally covered with exploration leases! )

It does look a little foolish defending a controversial exploration operation while not actually knowing where it is, don't you think?

The people of SA do not want a mine in the Arkaroola Sanctuary, Mr. Rann, and you must deal with that. With your facts straight.

Remember: Those wishing to clarify things for Mike can write and tell him what they think: it doesn't have to be hyper-detailed or long-winded, it just has to be polite, to the point, and on his desk! -

The Premier The Hon. Mike Rann

Phone: 8463 3166
Fax: 8463 3168

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What would Dave say, Mike?

mike rann and david suzuki - what would dave say about the mine, mike? - link to my 'Arkaroola  - would U mine it?' set on flickr This is a picture of Big Mike Rann, and his mate Big Dave Suzuki, at the launch of the Youth Conservation Corps - a very successful state government youth environment initiative - in 2003.

Rann and Suzuki are friends, and I have little doubt that if Mike were to ask Dave what he should do about Marathon Resources' exploration activities in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, Dave would reply that they should be halted ASAP, and that Mike should declare that no company should be allowed to mine such an ecologically important reserve.

I could perhaps contact David Suzuki to confirm that this is indeed what he'd advise his friend, but I reckon I need not disturb such a busy man... Mike, just ask any South Australian you meet what they think.

When even such conservative figures as Senator Minchin, Ian Plimer, and Martin Hamilton-Smith are appalled that mining the sanctuary could even be considered you must be aware that the environmental credibility of your entire government is at stake.

Much was promised by, and expected from, your 'progressive' Labor government, but this potential seems to have become subsumed by business-as-usual infrastructure projects and an unsceptical embrace of the mining boom.

I very rarely agree with Senator Minchin, but he's right: we really don't need to assault pristine areas like Arkaroola in order to expand out minerals sector.

Saying that mining companies need to lift their game (Advertiser 19-01-08) is not enough - Marathon needs to be run off the field now!

If you'd like to tell Mike what you think, you can always drop him a line - or ring his office: remember it doesn't have to be hyper-detailed or long-winded, it just has to be polite and on his desk! -

The Premier The Hon. Mike Rann

Phone: 8463 3166
Fax: 8463 3168

Thursday, January 17, 2008

it's time - marathon must go!

magnificent mount painter is right next door to the target area - link to my Arkaroola Sanctuary - would U mine it? set on flickr Ugly pictures of piles of shoddily concealed waste dumped in plastic bags. Bulldozer tracks carved across hillsides. The rumbling of heavy drilling rigs. Is this how we see our premier wilderness sanctuary? It's certainly how we're seeing it now!...

We all know the story - all the information any reasonable person could ever need is available below. And now it's on Channel 7 news.

Marathon Resources' exploration program at Mount Gee must halt immediately. The State Government can no longer hide behind procedural technicalities, and pray the project goes away. They have to finish it. Now! Premier Mike Rann must step in, as he did when the same company tried to set up operations on the Fleurieu Peninsula in 2006.

Please e-mail Mike Rann, telling him so. Phone his office. Fax him. You don't have to say much at all - he knows what's going on. All you need to do is get it across his desk.

Just say the exploration program must be halted. Immediately.

You can mention the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary's being inducted into the SA Tourism hall of fame last year. And it's winning the 2007 award for Ecotourism. And for Major Tourist Attraction. And Sustainable Tourism.

You can mention that this exploration activity is being undertaken directly adjacent to the internationally famous Ridgetop Track, along which the Ridgetop Tour runs.

You can mention that Mount Gee is an internationally significant geological monument.

You can mention that in that any reasonable interpretation of the legislation that makes this a Class A Environmental zone this deposit could never be mined anyway (least of all by those who have produced this kind of mess in the exploration stage!)

You can mention that this is your landscape, and you don't want to see it trashed by those who are blinded by dollar signs!

You can raise any number of other points raised below, or by the Wilderness Society, or by the Sanctuary owners themselves.

He knows it all already. It probably won't hurt to remind him.

But most of all he needs to be reminded that the people of SA don't want mineral exploration in the heart of the Wilderness Sanctuary. Not now; not ever. Some gems are way too precious to mine. And way too valuable to account for.

The Premier The Hon. Mike Rann

Phone: 8463 3166
Fax: 8463 3168

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Contamination probe at outback uranium site": ABC

access tracks and drilling benches on the flanks of mount gee - link to my Arkaroola Sanctuary - would U mine it? set on flickr Australian Broadcasting Corporation online news 16-01-08 4.00pm-

Alleged environmental contamination at the Mount Gee uranium deposit in the far north of South Australia is being investigated by the SA Government and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

Police have reported alleged contamination at drilling holes on the site.

Marathon Resources estimates there are about 43 million tonnes of uranium ore at Mount Gee and is making plans for underground mining to extract the ore.

If the Government and EPA find contamination at the site they can issue a clean-up order.

Marathon Resources is alleged to have wrongly disposed of resource samples at the site.

The company says it has launched an internal investigation.

It is alleged that plastic bags containing core samples were buried just below the surface. An excavator was used at the site today.

SA's acting Minister for Mineral Resources Development Michael Atkinson says the substances are not dangerous but the possible environmental breach warrants investigation.

"The agreed process is that it be given to an authorised waste disposal facility here in Adelaide, approved by the EPA," he said.

"But it's not just soil samples that we're talking about, we're talking about general corporate untidiness, that's the allegation."

The Mount Gee site is within the Arkaroola pastoral lease which has been declared a wildlife sanctuary.

Holloway replies, and 50 new drill holes for the Wilderness Sanctuary

exploration access track on the flanks of mount gee - link to my Arkaroola Sanctuary - would U mine it? set on flickr I have received the following correspondence from Minister Paul Holloway - the state Minister for Mineral Resources Development, regarding my letter of the 9th of November 2007.

This letter pointed out the impact of exploration operations and queried whether an actual mine could ever really be established anyway given a 'reasonable' interpretation of current state legislation (this can be read at the bottom of the please act for arkaroola - write away journal entry) -

Dear Mr. Doyle,

I acknowledge your further letter dated 9 November 2007 concerning exploration activity within the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

As indicated in my previous reply, Marathon Resources is the operator of Mineral Exploration Licence EL3258 in the Northern Flinders Ranges. Exploration activity by a number of companies has been ongoing in this area for some decades.

A Mineral Exploration Licence permits a company to undertake authorised exploration work programs. The holder of an Exploration Licence does not have any approval or authority under the Mining Act 1971 to undertake mining. Furthermore, the granting of an Exploration Licence does not imply any guaranteed approval for establishing a mining operation in the event that a viable mineral resource is discovered.

The Department of Primary Industries and Resources (PIRSA) is the regulatory authority that assesses exploration work proposals and places stringent requirements for the conduct and rehabilitation of all exploration work. I understand that PIRSA is undertaking a comprehensive audit of the company's compliance with all environmental requirements and rehabilitation progress to date. This audit will involve consultation with the owner and operator of Arkaroola. No further approvals for additional exploration drilling will be given until this Government has confirmed that environmental standards are being met in this sensitive area.

Furthermore, I recently visited the area accompanied by the Executive Director, Minerals and Energy Resources, PIRSA, and met with the owners of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. This provided the opportunity for them to discuss their views and concerns and provided me the opportunity to personally view the site of the exploration area for myself. I also met with representatives from Marathon Resources while visiting the area.

Please be assured that the State Government is fully aware of community concerns on this matter and of the importance of the unique environmental, geological, landscape and conservation values of this area.

Yours sincerely

Paul Holloway
Minister for Mineral Resources Development

It is certainly a good thing that the Minister has visited the site for himself, that all requirements are 'stringent', that an audit of Marathon's operations will be undertaken, and that the government is 'fully aware' of community concerns and the value of the sanctuary.

However, it became apparent at a meeting I attended with The Wilderness Society campaigners and Department of Mineral Resources Development staff late last year that those staff essentially saw the company's current operations as guideline compliant despite their obviously controversial nature.

Again, the minister's letter mainly addresses procedural issues, and not the core point as to how the project could ever have been conceived to be viable in an Environmental Class A Zone in the first place (see my letter to the Minister)

And it is to be noted that the company itself has just announced an expanded drilling program -

marathon announce 50 new drill sites, EIS

On the 18th of December 2007 Marathon announced an accelerated 50 hole drilling program...

“We already have two drill rigs operating around the clock and have to date drilled 16 holes as part of a $7.2 million, 50-hole program,” Marathon Director, Mr Denis Wood, said today.

... and that a formal Pre-Feasibility Study, and Environmental Impact Study will be undertaken for the Mount Gee project -

The Company also announced today it had given the go-ahead for both a Pre Feasibility Study (PFS) and Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to begin.

Mr Wood said SMG Consultants had been commissioned to undertake the comprehensive PFS of the mining process, while Enesar Consulting – a subsidiary of highly-respected engineering group, Coffey International - has been secured for the EIS.

He said the appointments of SMG Consultants and Enesar Consulting were a significant “next step” forward in the proposed development of the Mt Gee uranium project.

“The purpose of the PFS is to cost the technical viability of underground extraction of uranium ore to a near-site processing facility,” Mr Wood said.

“This is a comprehensive and critical process which is expected to be completed by March 2009,” he said.

“The same applies with our EIS, which is a crucial component to the future of our project.”

Environmental issues that form part of the EIS include groundwater impacts, surface water management, flora and fauna, Aboriginal heritage management, air and noise
quality, and land use impacts.

The EIS is expected to take 12 to 18 months to be completed.