Tuesday, February 10, 2009

a tale of two notices - what a difference a day makes!

the ridgetop tour passes opposite mount gee - link to my 'Arkaroola - would U mine it?' set on flickrOn the morning of Thursday 5th of February, 2009, Marg Sprigg, owner of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, received a 'Notice of Entry', dated February 2nd 2009, from Marathon Resources.

This notice stated that the company intended to enter the sanctuary for the purposes of “undertaking mineral exploration which may include geological mapping, geochemical sampling, ground and down-hole geophysical surveys, helicopter assisted surveys and drilling” [emphasis mine.]

As Marg told Local ABC 639 this morning -

[W]e were pretty shocked last Thursday to be given a new notice of entry saying they were coming back and one of the things that they wanted to do was helicopter surveys and drilling; we contacted PIRSA immediately because the report that they put to us last year, 12 months before almost to the day, said that Marathon were suspended from doing any drilling...

Marg, like many of us, had been wondering for some time what precisely was going to happen with regard to Marathon Resources' activities in the heart of the wilderness sanctuary.

That afternoon Greens Legislative Council Member Mark Parnell asked his question in parliament of Paul Holloway, the Mineral Resources Minister. (This exchange has been detailed in the previous posting on this blog.)

Mark found a normally circumspect Holloway either startled (or perhaps irritated?!) into a remarkably frank description of the processes required before he would even think of allowing Marathon back in to drill, none of which are likely to see them doing so anytime soon! Given the expiry of their Exploration Lease later this year this cannot be good news for the company!

Mark and his office then issued a press release denouncing any attempt to re-enter the Sanctuary to drill - as the Notice of Entry text, cited above, clearly states - before PIRSA has even finalised its report on the clean-up or lifted the drilling suspension.

"it's a bit odd..."

Mark's press release was picked up first thing on the morning of Friday 6th of February by ABC radio. The ABC reported that "Marathon Resources says the notice of entry is needed so it can rehabilitate the site and repair roads.".

Furthermore, the company said that Marg had already given them written permission to undertake the repairs they wanted; it's worth hearing what Marg had to say about that this morning -

[T]hey said that I had given them permission on 19th January in writing to go and do the track upgrades, that’s not untrue, I gave them permission to do one tiny track repair that they advised me was damaged due to the rain we had at the beginning of January ... [in order] to reach a spot that otherwise would have been very dangerous, to just finish off their final clean up, so they said they needed the notice of entry and notice to use declared equipment, but they actually advised us of the notice of entry after they had done the clean up ten days before, so it’s all a bit odd... [emphasis mine]

'A bit odd' is the least one could say, surely?

notice of entry 2 - the sequel!

Speaking of odd, Marathon Resources faxed another, brand new, Notice of Entry to the Spriggs on the Friday that stated that they intended to access the sanctuary for the purposes of -

Rehabilitation, revegetation and exploration activities of a low impact nature. Those activities ... may include geological mapping, stream sampling, core re-logging, ground gravity surveys, water and dust sampling, airborne reconnaissance, seed collecting, flora and fauna surveys, Heritage surveys. (No request for drilling activities is made following PIRSA Formal Notice dated 8 January 2008)

Gone are any references to drilling and helicopter surveys! And observe that they refer to a notice given to them over a year ago by Primary Industries informing them that drilling is precisely what they cannot do!

Not only did they rush the new notice up to the northern Flinders - they also issued a retraction of the 'old' one of the day before! I wonder how often that happens?

Marg Sprigg again -

[T]hey gave us one on the 5th January and on 6th January they gave us another one saying they were withdrawing the previous one … the day before and gave us a new one saying that there was no request for drilling activities, a complete turnaround in 24 hours...

seems they're not miners, after all!...

But that's not all Marathon did on the Friday. They also issued a press release, targetting Mark Parnell. It describes Mark's claims as 'reckless and damaging,' and makes fascinating reading in light of the above -

Mr Parnell’s claims that Marathon was trying to recommence mining are fanciful and incorrect. Marathon has never undertaken any mining at its Mt Gee project. The only licence the company has is for exploration.

Pedants of the world, please note - Marathon has never undertaken any mining at Mount Gee, because even though it has been drilling holes deep into the mountainside looking for minerals technically this is being done under an Exploration Lease.

Mark's press release had indeed referenced mining in the title, and mentions mining activities (of which drilling would appear to be a significant one, surely?)

But, even then - wouldn't you know? In the body of the Greens' release it says '[y]esterday Marathon Resources served a formal Notice of Entry on the Sanctuary's owners, Marg and Doug Sprigg to re-commence their exploration activities.' Not only does this seem rather clear, it's what actually happened! This is also what the ABC reported.

So, how convincing do you find the company's argument, dear reader? Thought so...

we only want to be nice!...

The Marathon release also states -

On 19th January 2009 Arkaroola Pty Ltd gave written permission to Marathon to carry out track improvements, which requires both use of declared equipment and entry to the site.
This is the permission referred to above for repairs that, according to Marg, were already completed by the time the Notice was issued. They add that -

On 5 February 2009 the Notice of Entry and Notice of Use of Declared Equipment were delivered to Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary by Marathon Resources.

This is the equipment that Marathon is currently using to rehabilitate the sites and repair the roads.
The palpable intent here is to convey the impression that the original notice was only given for those purposes.

But the original document clearly included notice of drilling and helicopter surveys! (And please bear in mind the background as discussed in the previous post.)

Not only do we then need to consider the timing of road repairs issues raised above, if that's all they ever intended to do why on earth did it say anything else on the notice? After a bruising year of negative publicity you'd think the company would be hyper-vigilant in such matters!

PIRSA made us do it!

Marathon Resources delivered the Notices after receiving clear instructions from PIRSA on 20th November 2007 that the company must serve a Notice of Entry every 12 months. Marathon has therefore abided by this PIRSA instruction.
Well, the regulations are not overly clear in this matter, and it will be interesting to see what PIRSA say they meant. But it's pretty obvious that Primary Industries didn't assert that Marathon should serve notice to undertake activities from which they are formally suspended!

This point gave rise to an amusing observation from Marg -

[A]s my understanding is, these are not required annually, once you have a notice of entry and provided you haven’t gone away which Marathon unfortunately hadn’t, that you don’t need to give one annually but apparently it’s a requirement according to Marathon from PIRSA so obviously they have different rules for them...

oblivious to the damage caused...

But before we finish considering the Marathon press release, consider the following gem:
Mr Parnell – with his comments in the Parliament yesterday and in a Media Release issued today - is once again distorting the facts to further his own cause with little respect for the damage he causes to the South Australian resources industry.
As to 'distorting the facts' I'll leave it to readers to judge for themselves!

But here's an open question for the SA Chamber of Mines and Energy and the Department of Mineral Resource Development.

Which, would you say, out of Mark Parnell and his office, and Marathon Resources (given its, um, 'troubled' history in Arkaroola) has caused the most damage to the SA Resources Industry in the minds of the South Australian public?


1 comment:

  1. This saga seems depressingly endless. The vampire has a stake though its heart - why cant it just die?



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!