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South Australia - Alliances for Arkaroola: How the Best Level of Protection was Won

Arkaroola is a magical place located 600km north of Adelaide, in the spectacular northern Flinders Ranges. Being the traditional lands of the Adnyamathanha, Arkaroola has a rich cultural history. It’s rugged mountains, towering granite peaks and magnificent gorges and waterholes have been protected from the threat of uranium mining by a strong coalition of people from all walks of life and political affiliations.

Arkaroola is recognised internationally for its geological significance, the recent discovery of the oldest fossilised reef ever found being just another reason to preserve this area. Its rich biodiversity  includes 160 species of birds, the endangered yellow-footed rock-wallaby and lizards, giant geckos and molluscs found nowhere else on earth and a new species of desert frog recently discovered by scientists. The Arkaroola region is also of major cultural and spiritual significance to the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners. In Adnyamathanha belief, Mount Gee – known as the crystal mountain – is the resting place of the spiritual creator Virdnimura.
In 2007, mining company Marathon Resources announced plans to mine uranium in Arkaroola. With the support of a broad cross section of the community and people from all political persuasions, the Wilderness Society campaigned to protect this amazing place since the moment bulldozers and drilling rigs arrived. We organised and supported efforts to protect Arkaroola and built strong relationships with politicians across the spectrum to win this campaign. Online petitions, media outreach and PR work were all part of the community pressure mounted throughout 2009 and 2010 to protect Arkaroola. We were actively involved in mobilising South Australian communities and worked closely with politicians from the entire spectrum to ensure the highest level of protection for Arkaroola.
All this hard work and dedication to building alliances paid off: on 22 July 2011, South Australian Premier Mike Rann announced the banning of all mining activities within the Arkaroola Mountains. Five days later, the Governor by proclamation reserved Arkaroola from the operation of the Mining Act under Section 8, meaning that mining is no longer permitted in the area. The Arkaroola Protection Act, special purpose legislation to prohibit mining, mineral exploration and grazing and to provide protection for the Arkaroola Mountains passed the South Australian Parliament in 2012. The area is now being considered for National and World Heritage listing.