Mining the Share market, not Uranium

In a quiet corner of the Flinders Ranges South Australia, Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, a massive clean up of low level radioactive waste is about to begin. 30,000 bags of sample core waste and mining refuse dumped strategically close to a major flood way in a sanctuary of world significance along side Mount Gee. While the whereabouts of stolen fluorite deposits remains unknown, the peculiar Marathon Resources toys relentlessly with the concept of continuing this onslaught on Mount Gee. But why? With low yield deposits and sharemarket statements claiming no open cut mining would occur, nothing short of a project matching the London Underground would see any yellow cake brought to the surface, despite twenty eight drill holes and regular buoyant statements to the sharemarket faithful who must be shrugging their shoulders, as this is one sharemarket scam that has already been mined.

The first simple answer can be plucked from our own sharemarket history, Pierpoint was first off the mark in showing Mount Gee as the site of many a market folly, all of which served their wicked purpose leaving Mount Gee looking like a chunk of half eaten Cheshire cheese:

“Back in the early 1970s, Exoil…drilled 620 holes totaling 172,390 feet in the general area and, by Pierpont’s count, 45 of them were within 300 metres of Goldstream’s discovery intersection. Indeed, if Goldstream had deliberately decided to punch a hole through an area of known mineralisation, it could hardly have sited [test drill] 003 better. There must be one patch of the Uranium deposit that has nearly been drilled hollow’. (24.08.2001 Goldstream’s 003 Licensed to Thrill”

Marathons constant referrals to a site of known mineralisation hardly required more drilling, but at the end of the day, the tens of millions in market capitalisation and sharemarket shananigans meant little compared to the price of funding what South Australian Premier Mike Rann described as mining “cowboys”. And at the end of the day, what would Environment Minister Peter Garrett decide to do if the cowboys were ever granted a mining licence? Hopefully he would refer to the relevant acts and confer with Kevin Rudd about likely breaches to our near forgotten obligations under the 1973 (plus watering down amendments) Nuclear Non Proliferation Agreement. So ponder the pair sipping coffee in cabinet and trying to establish under the act if Marathon Resources met the criteria of “a responsible person”. A private citizen ransacking a wildlife sanctuary would go directly to jail but its takes the South Australian mining authority PIRSA and the EPA six months to decide to do… nothing, except agree that the site must be cleaned up. Odd? Yes, but the story gets better when we look at the largest shareholder in the charade, China’s CITIC Group, which the Californian based Rand Corporation stated in a 1997 report served as ‘a conduit for military sales and acquisition’, a subsidiary of which is the Polytechnics Group. So on technical, moral and legislative grounds, Mount Gee was always a target for more probing but blind freddy could have told anyone from the beginning that this was a not so elaborate sharemaket scam.

But just when you thought you were reading a chapter from a John Grisham novel and not an account of what is occuring in a wilderness sanctuary in Australia, the story just gets better. Does anyone remember the controversy surrounding the approval of South Australia’s second largest uranium mine, Beverley, which is a viable deposit laying on the floor not far from Mount Gee? The largest site of the controversial in-situ leaching process, a mine which escaped proper EIS scrutiny, opposed (then) by the traditional owners of the land and approved in 1999 despite all of this by Senator Nick Minchin, who suddenly has becomes friends with the Wilderness Society and the sanctuary declaring : “I have no complaint against Marathon, the State Government gave them the exploration license, that’s what I question, why in the first place the State Government contemplated having mining at Arkaroola at all.” You are an odd bedfellow Senator Minchin, to be adding your voice to what is looking more and more like a hollow campaign with a fascinating cast of thousands.

However, Senator Minchin is not the only ALP cast member who has taken center stage. Three cheers for Christopher Schact, the official dismantler of the parties three mine policy. He enters stage left, suddenly, in January 2007. The former ALP national secretary moves now from Marathon shareholder to board member, possibly as the Mr Fixit, to ensure the now publicised sanctuary contamination chapter is managed correctly as it echoes through the corridors of power. Well, he certainly earned his keep, the company remained listed on the ASX and none of the board ended up in jail, enabling the public eye to remain fixated on this mesmorising drama in the outback of South Australia.

The only politician with a clean nose is the Greens Mark Parnell, who has been tackling the bigger issue of mining in sanctuaries and national parks, perhaps he will be instrumental in closing the curtain on this disgraceful use of a sanctuary, as a means of mining the share market through the spoiling and contamination of what should always remain a mining ‘no go zone’ as envisage by the legendary Reg Spriggs, no stranger to mining but having enough foresight to at least preserve this gem in the Flinders Ranges crown. And while in excess of one hundred uranium mining licences have been granted under the watch of Premier Rann, and the workers at Roxby Downs expose themselves to radiation while the EPA turns a blind eye, the Marathon distraction smells like a snow job in the making, announcement soon by the Premier, “NO URANIUM MINE” in this sanctuary, as Senator Nick Minchin must keep reminding him, its far too precious to mine.

Stop the Press!

Our environment minister has just approved the expansion of the Beverley mine, its fine and above board, he has consulted Australia’s chief scientist who is impartial and independant in such matters. Phew, thanks Pete, great to have you on board.

 Jim Peacock, Minister Garrett, was not the best choice to consult on this issue, maybe you should consult wider

Environmental groups and some farmers have expressed alarm at Dr Jim Peacock’s comments supporting an expanded use of nuclear power and a wider use of genetically modified crops.

Dr Peacock was appointed yesterday as the Prime Minister’s part-time advisor on science and technology.

It’s a position that was a lightning rod for critics under Dr Peacock’s predecessor, Robin Batterham.

And as Karen Percy reports, the post of Chief Scientist seems set to continue to attract attention.

KAREN PERCY: For the past nine months, the main office of the Chief Scientist has been vacant.

Now there’s a new boss in the chair.

JIM PEACOCK: I think there’s a lot of very important scientific issues in front of Australia at the moment.

KAREN PERCY: 68-year-old Jim Peacock is the CSIRO’s leading plant researcher. He’s also the President of the Australian Academy of Science.

Now he’ll spend part of his time advising the Prime Minister on all things related to science, technology and innovation. And he’s got a full agenda planned.

JIM PEACOCK: I think it’s really time to reassess and discuss the possibility of using nuclear-based power. I’ve been concerned for some time in the application of the newer biotechnology techniques into agriculture. I think science education is critically important for the future of Australia.

KAREN PERCY: Few in the world of Australian science would quibble with the need for greater education about science matters.

But the nuclear issue is already attracting critics, like the Greens Senator from Tasmania, Christine Milne.

CHRISTINE MILNE: Nuclear power is an unacceptable option for Australia. It is not an option that is going to address climate change with the urgency that we need, and plus, it has all the downsides of weapons and waste.

Nuclear is not possible to deploy for at least another decade whereas tomorrow we could invest heavily in renewable energy, help the planet, and help ourselves.

KAREN PERCY: Senator Milne also believes Mr Peacock’s past ties with the Federal Government could compromise his independence.