Wednesday, January 16, 2008

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.

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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!