SA Mines and Energy Journal : Dec09-Jan10
DECEMBER 2009/JANUARY 2010 SA MINES & ENERGY JOURNAL 51 Do you have a story to knock The Canary off his perch? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org Confidentiality assured. Careful what you wish for One large mining company has repeatedly expressed its commitment to recruiting Indigenous people. And recently, it almost succeeded! HR staff were rushed off their feet by 22 hopefuls who registered via a "shopfront" in Port Augusta. To avoid being overwhelmed, they promptly closed the books. Most of those speedy candidates were diverted to training. And the rest ... well, they remain hopeful. Perhaps. As PIRSA and DEH try to work out how to divide up the Northern Flinders Ranges into easy-to-understand zones, The Canary's head is spinning. Confusion between departments about which areas Zone A covers, and whether the prized Arkaroola Sanctuary falls in Zone 2A or 2B, certainly isn't helping the stakeholders. Supposedly, this is all being done so the industry and the economy can benefit from that elusive "certainty" . So, if a proponent can negotiate access through a maze of zones underwritten by a raft of legislation and a sea of regulation that spans three portfolios at the state level and at least one federally, and can gain the approval of at least two state ministers and one federal, and survive the inevitable public outcry and blockades, then they can "certainly" have a project? Wouldn't it just be easier --and infinitely more "certain" -- to rule the sanctuary out? If you can't mine there, people should not be exploring there. And there is no such thing as a "low impact" mine! Zoning in or zoning out? THE CANARY One of the biggest challenges in journalism is trying to cover a story you can't see happening. From the very start of the Montara West Atlas oil spill, information was sketchy. On the day the leak started, there was a statement from the company describing what had happened early that morning, and there was little else. It provided no one for interview and this continued nearly every day for the next 10 weeks. Yet all along, environmentalists, politicians and other commentators were making their cases, which could only be based on speculation and suspicion. Was it 400 barrels of oil a day or 2000? How did the company know? Was it even in a position to know? Fishermen and the environmentalists talked about finding a few dead animals, and wildlife being "at risk" . It seemed unbelievable that there were only a dozen birds confirmed dead, along with a couple of sea snakes, but the round-about nature of web reporting meant the deaths of those unfortunate sea snakes were reported many times over. Reports from Indonesia suggested huge numbers of fish had died, yet Australian Government agencies said it couldn't be true -- the serious oil was still more than 230 kilometres from Indonesia. The only way to sort through the story responsibly was to consider the ideas that could be plausible and reasonable, and present them. All the experts agree that given the situation, and as lengthy as the process was, there was no other way to bring the well under control. Now, a Federal Government inquiry will address the issue as to whether the crisis could have been avoided in the first place. The clean-up will go on for months. The cost to the environment? We may not know for several years. Nature abhors a vacuum ... and so does the media. ABC journalist David Webber laments that information didn't flow as readily as oil from the Montara Oil Spill in the Timor Sea. Boys will be boys SACOME staff Jonathon Forbes and Nigel Long see the funny side of decontamination at Olympic Dam.