PERTH (miningweekly.com) − South Australia Premier Mike Rann on Friday banned mining in the Arkaroola region, in the state’s far north, where junior Marathon Resources is drilling for uranium.
Rann said that after discussions with Environment Minister Paul Caica and Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis, it was decided to give Arkaroola unprecedented protection, initially under the Mining Act. The state government would then implement new legislation specifically aimed at excluding mining in the area, giving it clear and specific protection.
“This new legislation will fully recognise the unique character of the region. We could have settled for what the Greens wanted, which was simply to ban mining, but I wasn’t satisfied that that would provide enough protection from all forms of incompatible development.
“Such a ban could have been overturned administratively by a future government. So we’re not only protecting it by proclamation, we’re backing that up by introducing legislation to protect this unique region for all time, and nominating it for further protection as well.”
The Premier noted that the process would involve three steps, with the first being reserving the area from operation under the Mining Act, by proclamation, preventing future exploration and mining titles being granted in the area.
The second step would be to enact special purpose legislation to protect the natural, cultural and landscape values of the area in perpetuity, while the third step would be to nominate the area for listing on the National Heritage List, and seek to have it nominated for World Heritage listing.
“We will now move to reserve the area from the Mining Act next week. We will have a period of consultation with stakeholders in the area, including the Adnyamathanha traditional owners, as well as lease holders, before introducing our Bill to protect the area forever before the end of the year,” Rann said.
But South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy (Sacome) CEO Jason Kuchel said that the ban on mining could set a “dangerous precedent” and ignored future innovation.
He said that the Chamber was “deeply disturbed” by the precedent of banning mining under the very Act that existed to enable mining. “For a government that claims to be pro-mining and pro-innovation, this announcement does not even contemplate obvious future advances in technology and processes.”
Kuchel acknowledged that the mining industry appreciated the need to protect the sensitive environment of Arkaroola, as well as other areas in the state with significant environmental, cultural and heritage values, but added that this action did not even allow for underground mining which could be viable in the future by access from outside the area.
“It also sends the wrong message to national and international investors in this state’s mineral resources sector about the adequacy and security of their investment risks, whether exploration, mining or support infrastructure.”
“Worse, the mining industry in this state has exhibited an exhaustive yet highly successful cooperative approach to environmental protection, cultural sustainability, workplace safety and site rehabilitation, yet now we have a government that says we cannot achieve and deliver these same world-best practices and standards at Arkaroola.”
Sacome has called on the government to reconsider the policy.
Marathon, which is listed on the ASX, requested a trading halt, pending the release of an announcement.
According to the company’s website, its Mt Gee project is one of Australia's largest undeveloped uranium deposits.