Tuesday, March 24, 2009

holloway - the indefinite suspension remains in place

 'Exploration must not adversely impact on the highly awarded ecotourism operations' - the rigetop tour near Mount Gee - link to my 'Arkaroola - would U mine it?' set on flickrLeaving aside the odd use of the current tense in paragraph 4 (did this letter evolve from an earlier version?) I think the message of the following letter from the Minister for Mineral Resources Development, Paul Holloway, is straightforward; the State Government will not declare Marathon's clean-up over until such time as they've formally issued a final report on it, and enacted the legislative reforms necessitated by the Mount Gee Fluorite incident.

No final report and new legislation ('that may well take some time'); no lifting of the indefinite drilling suspension. Marathon cannot drill. Marathon is not likely to drill any time soon. Their lease expires on the 10th of October this year. (South Australia Earth Resources Information Sheet 17th March 2009)

That much is clear. What is not clear is whether their lease will be renewed. (In the circumstances I don't know that I fancy their chances! )

More importantly, what needs to be made clear to the state government is that no mining operation is acceptable in the heart of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, and that this area, and all other high-value natural areas in the northern Flinders Ranges, needs to be off-limits to mineral exploration, highly-regulated and 'world's best practice' (and after the dumping fiasco how credible are these sorts of claims?) or not.


Dear Mr Doyle

Thank you for your recent correspondence to the Hon Mike Rann MP, Premier, concerning the breach of environmental licence conditions by Marathon Resources at Mount Gee, within the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. I am responding to you directly as this matter falls within the responsibilities of my portfolio.

As you would be aware on 12 February 2008 the State Government indefinitely suspended the drilling operations for Marathon's Exploration Licence 3258. The Government initiated a detailed investigation into Marathon's practices, led by the Department of Primary Industries and Resources SA (PIRSA) and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

On 8 May 2008, I released the findings of the investigation, which confirmed that there are three sites where unauthorised drilling material and other waste is buried. At the same time the company was directed to prepare a rectification plan for these sites.

On 11 August 2008, PIRSA approved the company's rectification plan for the three sites.
The plan will now be implemented under strict supervision by PIRSA and the EPA, in consultation with the Arkaroola pastoral lease holder. The approved plan can be viewed on PIRSA's web site (www.pir.sa.qov.au/minerals).

PIRSA and EPA compliance officers were on site at Arkaroola to directly regulate the remediation process. The company was directed to engage an independent environmental expert to ensure disposal is achieved to the highest standards and in compliance with the strict regulatory conditions that have been imposed.

The physical site clean-up was completed on 20 December 2008. PIRSA and the EPA are now assessing the final audit report from the appointed independent auditors prior to advising me as the Minister for Mineral Resources Development that the compliance action has been completed.

The Department has not yet signed off on this issue, accordingly, as far as the Government is concerned, the clean-up of the Mount Gee region by Marathon Resources is not yet complete, and it will not be complete at least and until the Department formally signs off on the work that is being done.

In addition, Marathon's activities brought to light some deficiencies in compliance and enforcement provisions of the Mining Act 1971 that need to be strengthened. I will be introducing some amendments to the Mining Act into Parliament this year. I have already stated in Parliament, on the 5 February 2009, that I will not be contemplating any further exploration activity by Marathon Resources at Mount Gee at least and until that legislative amendment is in place, and that may well take some time.

An Exploration Licence only permits a company to undertake authorised exploration activity and does not in any way grant permission to mine. The indefinite suspension on drilling activities by Marathon Resources within EL 3258 remains in place. [emphasis in original - BD]

This Government imposes strict conditions on resource exploration companies, particularly those exploring in environmentally sensitive areas of the State such as the Northern Flinders Ranges. Exploration must be compatible with existing land uses, and any activity in Arkaroola must not adversely impact on the unique landscape of the Northern Flinders Ranges and on the highly awarded ecotourism operations.

Thank you for your interest in this matter.

Yours sincerely

Paul Holloway

Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council
Minister for Mineral Resources Development
Minister for Urban Development
and Planning Minister for Small Business