Monday 19 January 2015
Special Edition 119
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Work begins on major upgrade of the Coober Pedy airstrip
News Release Minister Stephen Mullighan
Work has commenced on a $1.3 million upgrade of the Coober Pedy airstrip to help
secure the future of commercial flights to the popular Outback town.
The Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Stephen Mullighan, announced the funding in
November in response to new Civil Aviation Safety Authority requirements which could have
ended passenger air services to Coober Pedy.
“The prospect of losing commercial flights to this iconic opal town was unacceptable to
the South Australian Government so we moved to safeguard them,” Mr Mullighan said.
“This project is about securing a vital service to a remote part of South Australia - a service
that contributes to the economy of this important Outback town and region.”
The new CASA requirements classify the Coober Pedy runway as too narrow. It needs to be
widened from 18 metres to 30 metres to keep running commercial flights.
The Member for Giles, Eddie Hughes, lobbied for the upgrade to help secure the future of
the local community.
“Data shows that 75 per cent of people who arrive on planes in Coober Pedy are visitors,” Mr Hughes said.
The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure’s figures show of those visitors to the
town, 50 per cent travel for business and 39 per cent for tourism or leisure.
Almost half of those who travel for business are employed in Coober Pedy’s mining sector.
“Widening the runway will not only increase economic opportunities but it will also help to
secure the livelihoods of those who work in this opal mining town,” Mr Hughes said.
The District Council of Coober Pedy is overseeing the upgrade works.
Weather permitting, the widening and sealing of the runway should be complete by the end of February.
Following the completion of this necessary work, the State Government is also funding further
improvements for the long-term sustainability of the airport.
These works will involve an additional layer of sealing to increase the durability of the
runway and will commence later in 2015.
If a man works his gold mining privately on Sibuyan Island in the Philippines, albeit illegally,
when he is arrested and prosecuted for breaking the law it is entirely on his own head.
But what has been his employment over the last 20 years or so? If he has been gold mining
all that time, how is it right now to tell him he can’t do it? If it was legal before
Governor Firmalo’s Moratorium on Gold Mining a few years ago, then surely it is now on the
Governor’s moral responsibility plate to assist this man out of the industry, and all
the others arrested on Sibuyan Island recently. Otherwise who is the criminal, the man
who simply wants to work to provide for his wife and children, or the lover of the
environment who won’t let him do it?
Does the environmentalist have any compassion for the people or
only for the environment?
As for other small scale gold miners who work on shares only, with no financial commitment
to the operation, as part of a group of miners (who depend on a Financier to supply food,
and plant like generators, jetmatics etc for the miners) if they are arrested and have to
pay a fine to be released, will their Financiers pay the fine for them? Or will that be too
embarrassing to be discovered as being a Financier of an illegal operation? Especially if the
Financier is a well know local government elected member, or is a local policeman? And should not
that elected member or policeman also be prosecuted equally with the small man who gets caught
on site with dirty hands?
What about the suppliers of mercury? Is there any legal obligation to make sure that the
customer will not be using the mercury in a small scale gold mining operation on Sibuyan?
Another thought: companies who process ore to produce mercury must surely be aware of the
dangers involved to their employees in the processing of that ore. They therefore would be
aware of procedures and practices that can be put in place to minimize health risks to their
employees. If so, should not that information and technology be made available to the
small scale gold mining industry? And should there not be an obligation to government to provide
training for the miners, and licencing of their operation and use of mercury, and policing of the
mining procedure with associated prosecution of unlicenced miners, and miners who are found to be
noncompliant with their mercury use. Rather that arresting small scale gold miners who have had
years of opportunity, before the Moratorium, to work uninhibited in the industry, simply for the
purpose of providing for themselves and their families.
And last but not least of all the stakeholders involved in small scale gold mining, what
about the Landowners on whose property the small scale gold mining is taking place? They surely
are very much naware that the operations are taking place on their land. And they are always eagerly
looking forward to their Landowner share of the small scale gold mining operation on their property.
Should they not be prosecuted too?
Whatever happens, to arrest and prosecute small scale gold miners in isolation from all the other
willing and knowing participants in the industry is a Philippines government policy worthy of
But it’s more fun to do things this way!
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