MAC: Mines and Communities

"Cowboy" company dumps radioactive wastes in sanctuary

Published by MAC on 2008-08-25

Mining company apologises for uranium waste

ABC, Australia

15th August 2008

The chairman of Marathon Resources has made a formal apology to the owners of Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary for his company's misconduct at the site in outback South Australia.

The company dumped thousands of uranium drill samples in plastic and calico bags in two large trenches in the sanctuary last year.

The SA Government ordered Marathon to produce a detailed report on how it would rehabilitate the site.

That plan has been approved this week by the Department of Primary Industries and Resources.

In an address to shareholders, chairman Peter Williams apologised to everyone who had been affected by Marathon's wrongdoing, especially the owners of the Arkaroola sanctuary, Doug and Marg Sprigg.

Mr Williams said he accepted responsibility on behalf of the board for breaches in the exploration licence.

He said systematic change was required in the company to change its culture towards the community and the environment.

A clean-up of the 35 tonnes of waste could begin within a fortnight and is expected to take up to two months.

Mr Williams confident a suspension on the company's work will be lifted by the SA Government.

"They acknowledge that there is a very large resource and some obligations under our exploration licence to make sure that we comply with all the regulations and so on and, if we're doing that, there's absolutely no reason why we can't return to a drilling program," he said.

Marathon admits mistakes at uranium project

Staff writers, The Australian,

15th August 2008

MARATHON Resources promised today to change the way it operated in a bid to have its uranium exploration ban lifted.

The company apologised for its mistakes that led to the suspension of its exploration licence in February for wrongly disposing of waste at its Mt Gee uranium project.

"We have made some mistakes in our short history, we acknowledge and apologise for those mistakes, we have learned from them, and now it is time for us to move on to the next stage of our future," Marathon chairman Peter Williams said.

A South Australian Government investigation reported in February that Marathon Resources (ASX: MTN) had wrongly dumped 22,800 core samples, some of them radioactive, and other rubbish at the Mt Gee site, 700km northwest of Adelaide.

At the time Premier Mike Rann described the company as "cowboys".

Mineral Resources Minister Paul Holloway also said at the time that Marathon would be barred from drilling until it demonstrated its ability to comply with its licence.

The Mt Gee site is one of the nation's most promising uranium deposits and the suspension threw into doubt mining in the environmentally sensitive Arkaroola Wilderness.

The Adelaide-based company said it had committed itself to a "new course" of international leading practice at its operations after a major internal review.

"To win the right back to drill, we must first change our understanding of the priorities for an exploration company in a sensitive environment," Mr Williams said.

"Thereafter, we aim to prove that we can be responsible participants in the mining industry so that Marathon can become a worthy contributor to Australia's economic development and social welfare."

The Department of Primary Industries and Resources South Australia this week said it had approved the company's rectification plan for the cleanup of unauthorised waste buried in an area covering the Arkaroola pastoral lease and Wilderness Sanctuary.

Marathon said the review found it had "misread both the extent of the technical risk associated with uranium exploration and mining, and the heightened sensitivity of the community given the international context of the resource and its uses".

The review also found the company had inadequately managed environmental hazards, responded insufficiently to compliance requirements and did not adequately address potential community concern.

Still, Liberal Senator Nick Minchin has declared his opposition to mining in the Arkaroola wilderness.

"The Arkaroola sanctuary should be off limits for exploration and mining," he said yesterday after visiting Marathon's site.

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