URANIUM hopeful Marathon Resources has told a member of the South Australian legislative council that it is amenable to “meaningful offers” after it launched a legal attack against the government in mid-November.
In a letter to the Honourable Michelle Lensink MLC, Marathon chairman Peter Williams said the company remained open to offers and mediation prior to the February 2012 Supreme Court trial. The issue began in late July 2011 when the SA Government decreed a mining ban at Arkaroola in the Northern Flinders Ranges. The move was unprecedented as the area includes pre-existing state government issued exploration licences.
Part of the banned area encompasses Marathon’s EL 4355, also known as the Mt Gee project, which had been previously granted to the company. Mr Williams said that after former SA Premier Mike Rann made the proclamation, Marathon had made several attempts to resolve the issue with the SA Mineral Resources Development minister. Failing the proclamation being rescinded, Marathon said it wanted compensation for the $17 million it had outlaid in exploration expenses at EL4355. With no forthcoming proffered resolution, Marathon announced to the ASX in mid-November that it had engaged Kelly & Co Lawyers to represent it in a legal bid for compensation from the SA Government.
“Despite comment from the government that it would consider compensation for Marathon, the company has not yet received any proposal,” Marathon reported in a statement. “Marathon had hoped to resolve its claims against the government in a manner that
recognised the impact of the government’s decision on Marathon and recognised the unprecedented nature of the action taken by the government to ban mining in an area subject to existing exploration titles.” At the end of November, in the letter to Ms Lensink, Mr Williams further outlined Marathon’s claims against the government. He reiterated that the company was seeking the Arkaroola mining ban proclamation be made invalid and added that Marathon was also seeking an order requiring the Primary Industries and Regions SA to register the company’s mineral claims. “Marathon also claims that if the government wishes to excise Arkaroola from mining it must pay compensation to Marathon,” Mr Williams wrote in the letter, before expanding on the company’s case against the government. He said Marathon had not been “properly consulted and was denied procedural fairness”. “The proclamation constituted an acquisition of Marathon’s interests and the government did not comply with the process required under the Land Acquisition Act including paying proper compensation; and, section 33(4) of the Mining Act specifically provides for land to be removed from an exploration licence where it is required for a public purpose and requires that, where this occurs, compensation for exploration expenditure be paid to the licence holder,” Mr Williams wrote.
“By making a proclamation under section 8 of the Mining Act, the government avoided the statutory requirement to compensate Marathon.” However, Mr Williams concluded the letter with the statement: “the company remains willing to consider any meaningful
offer or mediation on the matter prior to the court hearings.”
As part of the Supreme Court order, the SA Government had to provide discovery of all relevant documents by mid-December and any responding affidavits 11 days later. Marathon owned 100 per cent of EL 4355, believed to be one of the largest uranium mineral systems in Australia. The most recent resource estimate for the tenement was released in early September 2008, totalling 51 million tonnes grading 615 parts per million uranium oxide for 31.4 kilo-tonnes of contained uranium oxide.
By Lorna Seatter