Wednesday, July 27, 2011

'This government has done the right thing'

protected forever - the heart of arkaroola

Mike Rann's ministerial statement to Parliament on the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, 26th of July 2011


The Hon. M.D. RANN (Ramsay—Premier, Minister for Economic Development, Minister for Social Inclusion, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Sustainability and Climate Change) (14:41): I seek leave to make a ministerial statement.

Leave granted.

The Hon. M.D. RANN: Last Friday, I travelled up to the Arkaroola region of the state with the Minister for Environment and Conservation and the Minister for Mineral Resources Development to announce that the area would be protected forever. Arkaroola is unique with sensitive environmental, cultural and heritage values.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order, the member for Kavel!

The Hon. M.D. RANN: See, there is a division on the other side on this issue. When I visited the stunning landscape last year—

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. M.D. RANN: —I found its beauty to be compelling and asked the Minister for Environment and Conservation and the Minister for Mineral Resources Development to examine options to protect it. We engaged in comprehensive discussions in consultation with Doug and Marg Sprigg who hold the pastoral lease, and I know that the minister for the environment had meetings with the traditional owners.

The Minister for Environment and Conservation had direct consultation with other key interested parties about the future management of the Arkaroola area including meeting with the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association on two occasions. In addition, officers from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources also consulted with the traditional owners. The Minister for Mineral Resources Development also held discussions with various mining interests and the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy about Arkaroola.

Following those discussions, we decided to give the region unprecedented protection, initially under the Mining Act, but going even further with legislation to specifically exclude mining and giving clear and specific protection to the area. Marg Sprigg has said that she could not wipe the smile off her face, and representatives of the traditional owners have expressed a variety of opinions including relief and also a leader describing it as a dream come true.

Our new legislation will fully recognise the unique character of this remarkable mountain wilderness. We could have settled for what the Greens wanted, which was simply to ban mining, but we were not satisfied that this would provide enough protection from all forms of incompatible development. Such a ban could have been easily overturned administratively with a stroke of a pen by a future government. We are not only protecting it by proclamation but we are backing that up by introducing legislation to protect this unique region for all time and nominating it for further protection as well. [Emphasis mine]

This will involve a three-step process, with the first step being to reserve the area from operation under the Mining Act by proclamation, preventing further exploration and mining titles being granted in the area. The second step will be to enact special purpose legislation to protect the natural, cultural and landscape values of the area in perpetuity. This step would define the area under statute, prohibiting mining, mineral exploration and grazing in the ranges, but specifically providing for the public appreciation and enjoyment of the area, with recreational activities regulated by a strict environmental management plan. The third step will be to nominate the area for listing on the National Heritage List and to seek to have it nominated for World Heritage Listing through the UNESCO process.

It is important to emphasise that the native title rights of the Adnyamathanha traditional owners will be fully respected in this process. This week we will move to reserve the area from the Mining Act. We will have further consultation with stakeholders in the area, including the Adnyamathanha traditional owners as well as pastoral leaseholders, before introducing our bill to protect the area forever before the end of the year.

Arkaroola is one of the most spectacular areas in the world, featuring unique biodiversity with an abundance of national and state conservation rated species. Some of the area's most unique species, such as the Flinders Ranges purple-spotted gudgeon and the spidery wattle, are not found anywhere else in the world. The area also provides a haven for the nationally threatened yellow-footed rock wallaby. We will proceed with nomination of the area under the national heritage listing, working closely with the traditional owners—

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. M.D. RANN: —and the pastoral leaseholders. Following that, early next year we will write to the commonwealth seeking World Heritage Listing for the area. The unique nature of the region justified the decision to end mining access.

Earlier this year we renewed the one-year exploration licence for Marathon Resources with strict conditions to allow exploration within Arkaroola, as we were legally obliged to do. We acknowledge that the mining industry needs certainty, which is why earlier this year we made it very clear that the exploration licence in no way conferred a right to mine. Furthermore, we advised that we were actively examining options for the future conservation management of the Arkaroola sanctuary, including the exclusion of mining.

We understand that Marathon has today announced it is taking advice about action to redress the impact of this decision. Marathon Resources was given a licence to explore the Arkaroola area, not a licence to mine. The Minister for Mineral Resources Development will meet with Marathon Resources later this week to hear their concerns about the impact the decision has had on their operations.

This government has been, is and will continue to be unashamedly pro-mining. When we came to office in 2002 there were just four mines operating in the state. Now there are 17, and there are dozens more in various stages of development, including the expansion of operations at Olympic Dam that will create the world's biggest mine. We have successfully worked—

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. M.D. RANN: The divisions in the front bench have broken out, even before question time. We have successfully worked with the federal government to unlock an area the size of England for exploration in the Woomera Prohibited Area. The area in and around the Woomera Prohibited Area is estimated to hold—

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. M.D. RANN: —mineral resources estimated to be worth—

The SPEAKER: Order! Premier, could you just hold on a moment please. Would members please stop shouting at each other across the room. The Premier will be heard in silence.

The Hon. M.D. RANN: The area in and around the Woomera Prohibited Area is estimated to hold mineral resources believed to be worth in excess of a trillion dollars. We have a major mining interest examining prospects there with keen interest. The future of mining in South Australia is assured. This government has done the right thing. [Emphasis mine]

As indeed it has...


Saturday, July 23, 2011

we won!

arkaroola campaign - we won!

Ladies and gentlemen - we won!

Premier Mike Rann announced the full protection of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary yesterday morning, having flown to the sanctuary to deliver the good news.

Here's the ABC's take -

Arkaroola wilderness mining ban welcomed

There is wide praise for a decision to prevent mining in the remote Arkaroola wilderness region of outback South Australia.

Premier Mike Rann and ministers have flown to the region to announce the SA Government will change the Mining Act as an interim measure, then introduce specific legislation to ban any mining in the area.

Mr Rann says an application also will be made to put Arkaroola on the National Heritage list, with a longer-term aim of gaining World Heritage listing.

"We have decided to give the region unprecedented protection," Mr Rann said.

The Greens have lobbied for a mining ban in the Arkaroola region and the Liberal Opposition opposed the removal of any environmental protection.

"We could have settled for what the Greens wanted, which was simply a ban on mining, but I wasn't satisfied that that would provide enough protection from all forms of incompatible development," Mr Rann said.

Earlier this year, Marathon Resources was allowed a new mining exploration licence for Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

The company had faced a ban after it was caught illegally dumping exploration waste in the northern Flinders Ranges in 2008.

To get the new licence it agreed to a conditions imposed by the South Australian Government for it to keep exploring the outback region for uranium and other minerals.

SA Mineral Resources Development Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the Government had made clear the area could not be mined.

"Earlier this year we renewed a one-year exploration licence for Marathon Resources with strict conditions to allow exploration within Arkaroola, as we were legally obliged to do," he said.

"We acknowledge that the mining industry needs certainty which is why at the time we made it very clear that the exploration licence in no way confers a right to mine.

"The Arkaroola wilderness area is a unique environment and as such we are giving it special, one-off, legislative protection."

Marathon Resources shares are in a trading halt.

Widespread praise

Marg Sprigg from the Wilderness Sanctuary is thrilled by the news that there will not be mining.

"It's wonderful. After 40 years or so of my family being here we've achieved what we really hoped to," she said.

SA Greens MP Mark Parnell says the Government's decision acknowledges the region's significance.

"Supporters of Arkaroola come from all sides of the political spectrum. Today the government has announced that it has listened to the people of SA," he said.

Mr Parnell tweeted: "Not surprisingly, the Premier has a dig at the Greens, but most important, no digging in Arkaroola!"

Adnyamathanha representative Enice Marsh said it was a dream come true for Indigenous people to know the area would be protected.

"I just want to thank the people that persevered with this and kept coming to our meetings so that we could document all this," she said.

Former South Australian senator Nick Minchin was involved in the campaign to protect the area from mining development and is pleased with the decision taken.

"This is not a place for mining, it is far too precious to mine," he said.

"I'm a supporter of uranium mining, I'm a supporter of mining generally and this state has a lot of potential for mining but there are some places you simply cannot mine that should be out of bounds for all time."

Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond welcomed the Government's decision, but said it should have been made two years earlier.

The Advertiser's take this morning is here. There's also an opportunity to comment, and a poll regarding whether it was the right decision.

Congratulations to Mike Rann and his team for making this historic announcement.

This is a great day for the Flinders Ranges, and a great day for all South Australians who care about their wild environment - a truly unique and irreplaceable resource.

Further, it's a great day for all Australians and all those people across the world who know true value when they see it.

And it's a great day for you; if you wrote to, e-mailed, phoned, petitioned, pamphletted, stuck the sticker on your car, spread the word - it's your victory, too! Congratulations!

A group celebration will be organised shortly - we'll keep you posted!

Thanks again. Go enjoy yourself! You've earned it...

PS A little over 4 years and more than 90 blog posts later, I can't tell you how pleased I am!

(My photos go a good run on the ABC online yesterday, and I've created a gallery below -)

arkaroola campaign - we won!

looking west to the armchair from the ridgetop track

arkaroola campaign - we won!

in the yudnamutana gorge at mining industry target hodgkinsons - a mining access track is visible at right

arkaroola campaign - we won!

sillers lookout, with the yudnamutana gorge below

arkaroola campaign - we won!

the prelude - mark parnell's early morning press release anticipating the premier's announcement - the image is from the mouth of the yudnamutana gorge

and, at the top of the page, the rugged terrain at the heart of arkaroola; yudnamutana gorge far below and the freeling heights above, as seen from the ridgetop track