Friday, October 29, 2010

cowboys call on parliament!

In February 2008, as he was announcing the suspension of drilling operations for Marathon Resources after the discovery of 22 800 bags of waste illegally buried in 2 large trenches bulldozed into the heart of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, Premier Mike Rann announced 'we won't tolerate cowboys'!

Well, last Friday a small posse of Cowboys and girls mosied over to the steps of Parliament house because, as they repeatedly hollered while waving their cordless drills, 'it ain't thrillin' if we ain't drillin'.

They begged to be let back, and with regard to their previous sins they pronounced themselves a very sorry bunch indeed. But none of this seems to have persuaded those ornery folks from The Wilderness Society or Dave Noonan from the ACF!

But it's Mike Rann they'd be looking to talk round.

With Mineral Resource Development minister Paul Holloway's amendments to the Mining Act having just cleared the lower house and likely to swiftly pass through the upper house next week, and with the government's own northern Flinders mining access plan Seeking a Balance quietly euthanased last week, the moment of truth is fast approaching for Mike Rann.

So what'll it be Mike - conservation or exploitation? Because as the public submissions on Seeking a Balance made clear, pretty well no-one is buying the line that you can have your wild heritage cake and eat it too in the northern Flinders Ranges.

(It's always interesting to speculate who thinks they know what. Take, for instance, Marathon's recent share price jump!)


Sunday, October 24, 2010


seeking a balance - click to read the reportThe Rann government's 'mining access plan' for the northern Flinders Ranges - Seeking a Balance - was quietly put to sleep with very little ceremony on Friday.

It will be mourned by few, including, apparently, mineral resources minister Paul Holloway, who said this of it last week -

(Seeking a Balance) went out for consultation...and several from both sides came back saying they didn't like the way we addressed the issue, so the Government accepted that, and said in that case we will frame a new response and we are in the throes of doing that.

'Several'!? It seems Paul Holloway is still pursuing some false notion of 'balance' by making statements like 'several from both sides'!

Perhaps he might cast the number of responses from the industry side that criticised the plan as being too restrictive on mining as 'several', but those who favoured the preservation of Arkaroola were numbered in the hundreds, not a few tens!

There were more than 450 responses, with 82% of these opposed to a mine in Arkaroola by the Government's own count - and only 10% in favour! (See Seeking is Unbalanced.)

The fact is that the proposal to allow mining in Arkaroola received an absolute whalloping in the SaB submissions, and Paul Holloway knows it! No amount of false-equivalence can conceal this fact.

This included a remarkably embarrassing submission from the SA Museum which described it as 'greatly flawed', and needing to be 'totally rejected'!

 an unconvincing carve-up - 'seeking a balance'- p15 - click for the full-sized mapFailing to take into account the overall context of the 'balance' (or lack of it) between conservation and mining in South Australia; failing to compare apples to apples (contrasting actual biodiversity - inadequately surveyed at that! - to potential mineral prospectivity); failing to define what the very mining 'infrastructure' it proposed to allow might be; failing to establish the very biological corridors that are central to the government's own strategies elsewhere in the state - this document was deeply, deeply flawed.

This was not a great moment for the Rann Government, and can hardly lead to confidence in their future management of the region!

So when Paul Holloway says 'we will frame a new response and we are in the throes of doing that' what can he mean?

The fact is that his government has categorically proved that it does not have the knowledge to undertake the very project that Seeking a Balance was premised on; the only thing it has shown clearly is it simply does not know enough about the biodiversity and sensitive ecology of the northern Flinders to possibly claim that mining and conservation can coexist or that it could hope to supervise that coexistence!

So what possible 'response' can Rann and co. cobble together now? They simply cannot claim that Marathon can return to active exploration because they have the competence to minimise impacts on a biodiversity they barely grasp.

The fact is they should never have allowed mineral exploration in the core of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary in the first place, and the only credible option they have is to acknowledge that fact and call off any mineral access, in line with the clear will of the people of South Australia.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

crunch time - choose your legacy for arkaroola!

the wilderness society's 'no mine in arkaroola' sticker

Marathon Resources' current exploration lease centred on Mount Gee, in the heart of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, expires tomorrow - 10/10/10.

Following up from my previous post, I have contacted mineral Resources Development minister Paul Holloway's office and was told that the decision to renew the lease will be tied to an imminent decision about the future of mining in the Sanctuary, and that this decision will be made at the state cabinet level.

Additionally, in the state's upper house on the 29th of September Paul Holloway responded to Greens MLC Mark Parnell's question regarding the lease renewal as follows -

There are really two issues here: one is the licence, but perhaps more important is the long-term position the government takes in relation to how mining operations should be regulated or controlled in future in the Arkaroola area. I would like to have that finalised as soon as possible. In many ways the lease issue, while it has a number of important ramifications, is perhaps a secondary issue.

While Holloway may regard the lease as a secondary issue I doubt that the public feels that way!

In fact, six letters to the editor published in South Australia's major daily The Advertiser yesterday all rather underscore this point - whenever public opinion has been sampled on this matter it is overwhelmingly in favour of conservation of this unique area rather than its exploitation.

That these letters requesting premier Mike Rann not to allow mining in Arkaroola came from as far afield as the UK and Germany should also serve as a warning to his government. This issue will not go away. It affects those who care about the preservation of truly wild places across the nation and across the globe.

Any decision to allow the continuation of mineral exploration in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, no matter how it is rationalised, will be seen by the public as a declaration of intent to support a mine in Arkaroola. Full stop.

There will be no wiggle room for Rann and Co. in this matter. I confidently predict that the bumper sticker shown above - whose first print run was exhausted within days - will proliferate across the nation!

your legacy - what's it to be?

Mike Rann must be thinking of his legacy at this stage of his career. Does he really want to be remembered as the man who let the miners into Arkaroola? Because whatever other good things his government may have done on the environment - and there have been many significant steps forward, including specifically in the field of conservation of wild areas - Arkaroola is what Rann will be most remembered for should he allow a resumption of drilling!

mike rann and david suzuki - what would dave say about the mine, mike? - link to my 'Arkaroola  - would U mine it?' set on flickr With Mike's mate David Suzuki due in the state to talk about his own Legacy, perhaps he should be asking the internationally famous conservationist what he would recommend that he do for the sake of posterity?

But, let's face it - in all likelihood we know the answer to that question already!

TWS calls for action

So, what can you do to ensure this magnificent area endures for posterity?

I am echoing The Wilderness Society's current call to the Labor Government not to allow mining in Arkaroola below (edited slightly for brevity's sake - if you are unfamiliar with the background to this issue please explore the extensive links on this blog!) -

The next week will be very important in the Arkaroola campaign.

It is completely unacceptable for Arkaroola to remain open to uranium exploration and mining, and we need to put pressure on the Government to consider the future of this precious place.

What can we do? Now is a really good time to get this issue vamped up. Have your say! You can:

1. Write a letter to the editor. Try sending a letter into a few different newspapers – it doesn't hurt. For tips, click here. Small or local newspapers are easier to get published in if you are writing a general letter that isn't a response to an article. Or try sending yours into bigger newspapers such as The Advertiser, The Australian, The Independent Weekly...

2. Contact a politician to tell them that we should protect Arkaroola. Try..

The Hon. Paul Holloway
Minister for Mineral Resources Development

GPO Box 2832

3. Contact SA Premier Mike Rann:

The Hon. Mike Rann MP

GPO Box 2343
Adelaide SA 5001

4. Make it heard! ... put up a link on your facebook page, tell your grandparents about it, spread it throughout your networks, email friends,call up radio stations, twitter it, share photos, whatever!

And if you get a letter published, let's celebrate! Send me an email or write on our facebook wall to tell us about it.

"Some places are too precious to mine... Arkaroola is one of them."