Sunday, February 13, 2011


as seen on the front page of the sunday mail! click  to go to

If confirmation were needed that drilling is indeed not thrilling for the South Australian electorate, today's Sunday Mail has provided it in spades.

The Arkaroola campaign is featured on the front page, with a stunning photograph of The Armchair (one of the region's wild post-volcanic peaks) on the front page of the weekly 'Insight' lift-out, in an editorial ('No place for a mine') on page 34, in a magnificent double-page photospread beginning on Page 38, and, crucially, in another double-page poll-based spread on pages 8 and 9 - Voters give Labor a right whack (which could just as well have been called 'Voters give Labor Right a whacking!', but I digress!)

Its worth quoting this piece, which is based on the Sunday Mail's own survey conducted earlier this week -

Labor's woes may be compounded by its recent renewal of Marathon Resources' exploration licence in Arkaroola - the poll found 72 per cent of people felt mining should not be allowed in the region. The "no" vote was a whopping 79 per cent among intending Labor voters - even higher than among Greens' supporters.

Arkaroola director Marg Sprigg said she was distressed by the decision to allow Marathon to continue exploring.

"We don't believe a company like Marathon should be allowed back in here," she said. "They want to do a lot more drilling in a much wider area than just around Mt Gee; they will be drilling into the very heart of Arkaroola."

Marathon is searching for uranium in a 90sq km tenement in the sanctuary. Its drilling rights were suspended in February 2008 after it was found to have illegally dumped exploration drilling waste.

The company says the area has the nation's fifth largest undeveloped uranium deposit with 31,300 tonnes identified.

Marathon chairman Peter Williams said more discoveries were likely and the new phase of exploration would extend several kilometres east of Mt Gee to assess the size of the deposit with drill holes as deep as 500m.

Relations between Arkaroola and Marathon have broken down, with Marathon now planning to fly in workers by helicopter each day from a neighboring property rather than pay to stay in Arkaroola village.

Mineral Resources Development Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the Government - which has heavily promoted its pro-mining credentials - was legally obliged to renew Marathon's licence but was considering a range of conservation options "which may include exclusion, or limiting of mining".

"This does not confer any right to mine the area," he noted. [Emphasis mine]

Here's the figures for that poll:

QUESTION 5: Should mining be allowed in the Mt Gee area of the Arkaroola Sanctuary?

YES - 22% (all), 19% (Labor voters), 25% (Liberal voters), 19% (Greens voters), 8% (Family First voters)

NO - 72% (all), 79% (Labor voters), 68% (Liberal voters), 71% (Greens voters), 89% (Family First voters)

DON'T KNOW - 6% (all), 2% (Labor voters), 7% (Liberal voters), 10% (Greens voters), 3% (Family First voters) [emphasis mine]

Note to the Labor Party - when an institution as conservative as the Sunday Mail carries not only this poll, but this editorial and a front page emblazoned with the 'NO MINE IN ARKAROOLA' sticker and the words 'Ark Up - the fight to save a wilderness' it's clear that in granting a return to active exploration in the sanctuary you have become so divorced from public sentiment that you really are at risk of being forever lost in the wilderness yourselves!

Reshuffling the deck chairs in cabinet didn't work. People want to see results, not the same rhetoric spilling from new faces. The message could hardly be clearer; the old men of the Labor Party have saddled the new blood with an albatross - or perhaps a turkey? - around their necks in the ongoing farce in Arkaroola. Either way, Labor needs to ditch the bird - or pay the price!

I'll finish with one more quotation from the Sunday Mail. I suggest that, if the situation is not swiftly rectified - it will prove prophetic;

The Mt Gee area of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, in the northern Flinders Ranges, is one of Australia's most awe-inspiring landscapes - and also the setting for what looms as one of the biggest environmental battles since the Franklin River protests in Tasmania in the 1980s.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

ark up! gear up! listen up!

sign on to the TWS cyber-action and grab yourself a 'no mine in arkaroola' sticker at monday's event - see details below sign on to the TWS cyber-action and grab yourself a 'no mine in arkaroola' sticker at monday's event - see details belowYou too can be part of environmental campaign history via the simple application of just $20.

Yes, that's all that is required to secure one of these fine 'Ark Up' T-shirts.
And this includes postage and handling! Woohoo!

They come with the message 'ARK UP' on the front and 'NO MINE IN ARKAROOLA /' on the back.

So now you can let people know that you object to any proposal to mine this unique wild area in stylish comfort, and help spread word of the campaign. The shirts can be ordered straight from the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary by phoning (08) 8648 4848 or emailing

And while you're sorting that you can listed to sanctuary manager Marg Sprigg talk about the latest developments at Arkaroola, and the history of the sanctuary's experience of dealing with Marathon Resources, via the Radio Adelaide website.

tourism industry condemns new lease

The South Australian Tourism Industry Council has strongly condemned the Rann Government's decision. It remains inexplicable why this government is prepared to bend over backwards to accommodate miners while willfully jeopardising the future of an industry that depends so heavily not only on our unique environment, but on our international image as sound environmental managers -


The South Australian Tourism Industry Council (SATIC) strongly rejects any mining activity in Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary as it is imperative that South Australia’s key tourism destinations are protected.

SATIC Chief Executive Ward Tilbrook says any mining activity in the award-winning Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary will damage the positioning and realisation of South Australia as a legitimate world class nature based eco-tourism destination.

“While mining is a finite resource, tourists are an infinite sustainable resource for the State creating 53,000 jobs in South Australia and an economic impact of $4.4 billion, with the Government declaring a target to increase the value of tourism to the State to $6.3 billion by 2014,” Mr Tilbrook says.

“Mining exploration and activity is incompatible with credible nature based tourism, Arkaroola should remain completely protected, the impact of mining activity will damage a spectacular and unique wilderness sanctuary, which is of enormous tourism value to South Australia and is intrinsic to our tourism identity.

“Tourism Australia has declared the Flinders Ranges as one of just ten unique iconic Australian landscapes, and the biodiversity, vast landscape and cultural heritage of Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is an integral part of this ‘National Landscape’ accolade.

“I urge the South Australian Government to reconsider any planned mining activity within the Sanctuary.”


Friday, February 11, 2011

drilling not thrilling the electorate!

grasswren country is drilling country! this beautiful hanging-valley on the ridgetop track is back in the hands of the mining industry

You know, I had always thought that the number one priority of any incumbent political party, whatever else they might tell you, was to get re-elected.

But when it comes to the South Australian branch of the Labor Party it would appear that 'it ain't necessarily so'!

The almost incomprehensible decision to allow Marathon Resources to return to active drilling in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is a case in point; all they seem to have managed to achieve is to sink their already decidedly, um, whiffy public stock still further!

As local daily The Advertiser noted on Tuesday -

A poll on the AdelaideNow website [The Advertiser online] found more than 80 per cent of more than 2000 respondents opposed mining in the area, and comments published online were overwhelmingly negative.

This is hardly the first such reaction!

In response to overwhelming rejection of their Seeking a Balance 'mining access' plan (SaB) from scientists, geologists, tourism operators and the public alike - and particularly the devastating criticisms from the South Australian Museum ('we advise that this re-assessment of the Environmental Classes, “Seeking A Balance”, be rejected totally' - ouch!) - what do Rann and co. do?

Quietly bin the thing, fail to issue the promised formal response to submissions (perhaps because it could only devolve into some sort of formal acknowledgement of incompetence?) - and hand Marathon another exploration lease which allows them to return to drilling!

Let's get this straight; 80% + of responders thought SaB did not go far enough, by a long chalk, in affording Arkaroola and the northern Flinders Ranges the permanent protection it deserves. 'Seeking' was Unbalanced! Playing irritating spin games along the lines of 'oh, but the mining industry criticised it too' will not do - every time the issue arises the public reaction to the prospect of mining is overwhelmingly negative; the SaB submissions, letters to politicians and the Editor, online polling, talkback... they all produce the same results - huge majorities opposed, tiny minorities in favour.

creative interpretation - just say no!

Even the Liberal Party has come out formally opposing any mine, and has proposed legislation that seeks to ensure the Class A Environmental Zone provisions of the Planning Act - which, if read in English, make any proposal to establish a uranium mine an impossibility - cannot be spun, creatively-interpreted, or 'guidelined' out of existence.

But Labor is apparently bent on pursuing this policy of electoral suicide! So much for a 'new direction'; surely Jack Snelling, John Rau, and Jay Weatherill don't want a spell in opposition from early 2014 just so they can 'get the hang of it', or something?

question, questions

I'm not the only one wondering what is going on. Greens MLC Mark Parnell asked former Mineral Resources Minister Paul Holloway a series of questions in Parliament on Tuesday -

The Hon. M. PARNELL (15:09): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Hon. Paul Holloway, the former minister for mineral resource development, a question about the granting of a new exploration licence to Marathon Resources.

Leave granted.

The Hon. M. PARNELL: Yesterday, Marathon Resources confirmed that they had agreed to accept a new exploration licence over the spectacular and iconic Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary that was offered to them by the Rann government. The response from geologists, ecologists and the wider South Australian community has been predictable: it has been total condemnation.

Also at odds with previous practice, the Sprigg family, the owners of part of the sanctuary and custodians of the rest, were kept totally in the dark about the conditions of the new licence by the Department of Primary Industries. The Spriggs were devastated to discover that the company has been allowed back in to drill for the first time since 2007, which is a clear betrayal of the commitment made by acting minister Jack Snelling on 21 December last year that the licence would contain stricter conditions.

The significant weakening of the conditions that have severely restricted Marathon's operations over the last three years has surprised many. For example, this morning on ABC radio, Matthew Abraham said:

...this program understood from a very good source before Christmas that the Rann government was considering doing the absolute reverse and, that is, not extending the mining lease, the exploration lease and in fact was considering options including making it a national park and banning mining completely from there, so quarantining it...

we don't know what happened from then until now but it was quite good information, (if) I can put it that way. We do know though that Marathon Resources is very well connected, has former Labor senator, former party secretary Chris Schacht first as a lobbyist, now he is a director of Marathon Resources. You do wonder whether he and others got cracking in the interim because that did send a bit of a shiver through Marathon Resources...

My questions of the former minister are:

1.What happened between October and December of last year to change your mind about throwing Marathon Resources out of Arkaroola?

2.Did you have any communication or conversations with John or Davina Quirke from lobbyist firm Pallidon, Chris Schacht, or Senator Don Farrell over the future of Marathon Resources between October and December of last year?

3.Why weren't the Spriggs consulted by PIRSA about the conditions of the new licence, which is a clear breach of the understanding that you previously gave in this place about the importance of the relationship with the owners of the Arkaroola Sanctuary for the future success of mining activities on that site?

4.Why has the requirement for approval of the chief executive of the environment department prior to entering the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary to carry out exploration been removed from the new licence?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (15:12): I suggest that the Hon. Mr Parnell reads the press statement that was put out by the acting minister, the now Treasurer, Mr Snelling, in my absence in December. That remains the position, as far as I am aware, in relation to Arkaroola. For any other matters I suggest that he put his question on notice to the new Minister for Mineral Resources Development.

Thanks for that, ex-minister! Holloway's response is, regrettably, stamped from the same boilerplate that has sunk his party so low in public esteem in the first place. The people of South Australia are absolutely entitled to answers on this issue!

So, what would we find if we went looking for Labor's position, other than their obviously allowing a resumption of drilling? Incoming Minerals Minister Tom Koutsantonis has hardly been placed in an enviable position himself! Nevertheless, it was hard not to be struck by the farcical aspects of the news item that appeared 2 days after the announcement of the new drilling lease -

MARATHON Resources may still be banned from mining in the Arkaroola Sanctuary in the Flinders Ranges.

Environmentalists and Opposition parties have slammed the decision that allows the miner to keep exploring the sanctuary where it was found to have dumped radioactive waste.

Newly appointed Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis yesterday said as part of the new conditions Marathon must minimise its disturbance to the environment.

"Marathon has been advised that the government is considering a range of conservation options which may involve exclusion, or limiting of mining," he said.


Note to party new-bloods and Mike Rann; yes, pursuing a policy of allowing mining in Arkaroola really is going to cost you! Apart from being simply wrong, this is a serious blow to both your electoral standing and your legacy.


Friday, February 4, 2011

of suspensions, halts, and suspense!

sign on to the TWS cyber-action and grab yourself a 'no mine in arkaroola' sticker at monday's event - see details below

Marathon Resources, the company that was suspended from drilling in early 2008 after it illegally dumped waste in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary - and now wishes to return to active mineral exploration - has requested a trading halt on its shares from the Australian Stock Exchange as of yesterday (ASX)

According to the company's statement to the ASX -

The halt is to allow time for Marathon Resources to confirm the acceptibility of the terms of the renewal of EL4355 offered by the South Australian Government and, if acceptable, implement a capital raising.

Not for the first time, the interested public is left scratching its collective head, and wondering what it all means. They're to be offered a lease. We knew that was coming, sadly. But on what terms?

One person who would really like to know is Marg Sprigg, owner of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. She told ABC news -

It was great concern to think that steps have obviously been taken that we have no knowledge of.

We expected to be involved in the process regarding input into what conditions might be placed on them and it's extremely disappointing to think that after all that's gone the Government has just side-stepped. [see complete item posted below]

Marg had, understandably, wanted to be party to the negotiations in order to understand what the state government were prepared to allow in the conservation area she manages. And yet she was simply ignored; she knows no more about it than you or I do, dear reader!

Do you recall Mineral Resources Minister Paul Holloway telling parliament in September 2008 -

When I made my statement I think I mentioned a number of other conditions that Marathon Resources will have to meet before any further exploration will be permitted in that area. One of the obvious ones is its relationship with the landholders. The view I have expressed to any mineral explorer is that, if they do not have good relations with the landholders, the future of mining within those areas is likely to be bleak. [emphasis mine]

Can we assume, then, that common courtesy and 'good relations' is a rule that applies only to others, and not to the state government?

It's not exactly 'transparency,' is it?

So no-one, apart for the Rann government and the company, knows what the proposed conditions of this lease are, including the crucial conditions for any return to drilling. This despite being targetted on a wild area that is clearly dear to the hearts of so many, as the overwhelming support for its preservation that is expressed each time the issue is raised in any public forum indicates.

The Rann government has promised that the environment of Arkaroola will be strictly protected - um, fine, but this is exactly the same statement they've been making throughout! - and that the company will be faced with a year lease with no 'automatic right' of renewal.

so, what can you do?

If you're as concerned about the prospect of a return to drilling as I am, doubtlessly you're asking yourself 'so, what can I do?'

Several things - firstly, you can add your name and comments to The Wilderness Society's cyber-action regarding Arkaroola - if you haven't done so already - as more than 2600 people have at the time of writing. (the action achieved its original target of 2000 signatures in a little over 24 hours - let's see if we can achieve the revised target of 3000 in a few more!) And you can encourage your friends to join in!

Secondly, you could contact your MP, and Mike Rann's office, to voice your concern, or write to The Advertiser.

Thirdly, you could come along to the Wilderness Society's proposed action on Monday the 7th of February at 10.30 am, on the steps of Parliament House. If you can make it along, please do - and remember; the 'someone else' who'll probably make it along if you don't is actually still you!

Here's what TWS propose -

The Rann Government has given permission for previously disgraced mining company Marathon Resources to return to uranium exploration in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. The Government’s decision was held back and only announced in the week before Christmas.

The community protest on the steps of Parliament House will send a message to the Rann Government that this decision has not gone unnoticed, and protesters will call on the Government to protect Arkaroola instead of allowing Marathon to mine it.

This will be a relaxed, non-confrontational event designed to highlight the issue for those of the public who may not even have realised that a new drilling lease may be in the offing (given the 'interesting' timing of the government's announcement!).

And it will be a great opportunity to contribute, and learn more about other avenues for participating in the campaign; plus a great chance to pick up Arkaroola stickers (see at the top of the post - get yours before nearly everyone else does!) and other campaign materials.

You might even get to meet a Labor Maaaaaate (and will they have a proposal for you?!)

Here's the ABC news report in full.

The manager of Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is angry that conditions have been decided without her input for a resources company to keep exploring the area in the Flinders Ranges.

There has been a trading halt in shares in Marathon Resources while a renewal of its exploration lease is considered.

The company was caught illegally dumping waste in the wilderness area in 2008.

Sanctuary manager Marg Sprigg said she would like to have had some input into the conditions.

"It was great concern to think that steps have obviously been taken that we have no knowledge of," she said.

"We expected to be involved in the process regarding input into what conditions might be placed on them and it's extremely disappointing to think that after all that's gone the Government has just side-stepped." ABC online 4/02/11