Marathon Resources on knife edge… Arkaroola Wilderness too valuable to mine


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Libs deadlocked on Arkaroola
04 Sep, 2010 04:00 AM
The Liberal Party is has been unable to decide whether to support mining in the Arkaroola Wilderness.

Arkaroola, eight hours drive north of Adelaide in the Gammon Ranges, is one of Australia’s most spectacular landscapes.

Marathon Resources wants the Gammons not for their scenery, but for what lies beneath. Uranium has already been discovered, and there are signs of gold. Previous prospecting activities saw the company illegally dump its waste, but it wants to do further exploration and then uranium mining.

A Bill to stop all mining in the wilderness is now before Parliament, and the Liberals will have to vote on the legislation within a fortnight.

The MPs were expected to make a decision at a Port Lincoln meeting this week, but were unable to reach consensus.

“It was a very amicable, calm discussion. It wasn’t sort of some great tension within the party room or anything like that,” said Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond.

“But in the course of the discussion it became also apparent that there were a number of questions that we still wanted to clarify before coming to a landing on the Arkaroola question.”

Several prominent Liberals strongly oppose mining in the Arkaroola area, including Senator Nick Minchin, former environment spokesperson Michelle Lensink and shadow treasurer Ian Evans. In the late ’90s, Evans, as Liberal environment minister, stopped a proposed magnetite mine in one of the Gammon gorges.

The Greens, who naturally oppose the mining, find themselves in agreement with at least some SA Liberals, rather than Labor. This is in contrast to relations between Greens and Labor at a federal level, where Greens have moved into a coalition with the ALP.

One of the Premier’s media secretaries, Lachlan Parker, sent abusive emails in response to a news story which said Premier Mike Rann supported prospecting and mining the Gammons. Mr Parker said that the Government was now “still considering its response to the hundreds of submissions received” about its discussion paper which looks at conservation and resources use in the Northern Flinders Ranges.

“Substantial exploration on Marathon Resources lease, which covers Mount Gee, remains suspended until the Mining Amendment Bill now before the Legislative Council passes State Parliament and until the Government finalises its response to the ‘Seeking a Balance’ document,” Mr Parker said.

The story above is of great interest as South Australia is seen as a mining friendly state and has actively pushed for a new and bigger mining industry. The state has several ranium projects. The state also has good green credentials and is leading the push for Hot Rock Energy with several companies on the edge of commercial exploitation of its world’s best hot shallow dry rocks that seem ideal for Geothermal energy production.

To have the Liberals in combination with the Greens pushing back the exploitation of the Arkaroola Wilderness on the surface seems bizarre but they may have a point.

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