David outwits Goliath.All our hearts beat with anticipation at the victory of the small, brave hero over the faceless mass-horde opposition.We all delight in seeing the race go to the swift and smart. What better than a good old mining story from Australia to drive home this theme? This one has it all: a clear night, a bright moon, midnight staking with hammers and pegs, and then the next morning a string of angry competitors trying to get the rights to more than two billion dollars worth of uranium deposits.

Trailing along are regulators caught in the headlights. And now it is before the courts that have to decide if Norm McCleary’s old-fashioned hand staking of two lucrative uranium deposits at Angela and Pamela in the Northern Territories was legal and supersedes the electronically filed claims “staked” by forty other companies including six from China. Here is a perspective on the story from Ben Young, an Australian:

It seems that the method used for generations of staking a claim in the bush is no longer recognized in the Northern Territory in Australia. Recently Norm McCleary beat dozens of multinational mining companies to the prize by pegging a claim over the Angela and Pamela uranium deposits near Alice Springs in Central Australia.

The claim was due to be unencumbered at midnight on December 6th and claims were due at 8am the following day, McCleary and his team took off to the site at 12:01 on the 7th of December and hammered stakes into the ground under a full moon.

Court action has since been initiated by the Northern Territory Government to deny McCleary his claim, as the mining warden had denied them to enter the land owned by the Crown to which McCleary claims no knowledge of.

After ‘out foxing’ companies such as Cameco of Canada, Energy Resources of Australia, Uranium Equities, U308, Paladin Resources and Energy Metals, along with up to 40 other Juniors, McCleary has accepted an offer of $220,000 and $2.3 million in shares from Segue Resources and should he win his court case he will receive 7.5 million shares and 7.5 million options.

Should the court find in favor of the NT Government the term ‘Stake a Claim’ is sure to have its meaning changed.

The Darwin Supreme Court is the aptly named location of the legal proceedings. It is here the issue of physical versus electronic staking and the timing of each will be decided in the next month. The question is what is the law in the Northern Territory? This may be one of those cases where difficult facts make for bad law. It is clear that “The consent of a mining warden is required to enter on any land, to mark out the land in the prescribed manner.” Some news reports of McCleary’s midnight staking venture say that he did not have the consent of a mining warden to enter the land in question. Some news reports tell of McCleary making two applications to the mining warden but receiving no reply. With two billion dollars of uranium at stake, this one will be fought long and hard.

In British Columbia we have electronic title staking. The literature is not clear that physical staking is now outlawed and no longer valid. Or is it? What if the Canadian equivalent of McCleary were to mount a midnight claim stake? And could this happen in the United States—or would a good Landman preclude such intriguing events. An interesting question to which you may have the answer.

Then this news from February 27, 2007:

A mining developer who pegged a midnight stake on a billion dollar uranium site in the Northern Territory outback has lost the right to keep his claim.

But the Perth businessman said he would appeal the decision by the NT Supreme Court, as he declared one round lost but not the battle.

Norm McCleary was fighting the territory government to keep a claim over the Angela and Pamela uranium sites, estimated to contain more than 12,000 tonnes of uranium oxide worth up to $2.5 billion.

Crown land reservations on the deposits near Alice Springs officially ended at midnight on December 7, and Mr. McCleary claimed he outfoxed at least six global mining corporations and up to 40 other hopefuls when he hammered his pegs into the soil under a full moon that night.

Companies who emailed their applications to the government included Cameco of Canada, Energy Resources of Australia, Uranium Equities, U308, Paladin Resources and Energy Metals.

But the NT government argued Mr. McCleary had not obtained permission from the mining warden before entering the land and staking his claim.

In the Northern Territory Supreme Court in Darwin today, Justice Trevor Riley dismissed Mr. McCleary's case over the Angela and Pamela sites, saying he "did not intend to apply for an exploration license".

"I reject the evidence of Mr. McCleary as to his state of mind," he said in his 33-page judgment.

"I did not find him to be a satisfactory witness... there can be no doubt Mr. McCleary was aware of the need for approval and the importance of the approval."

Mr. Riley said Mr. McCleary had adopted a "scattergun approach" when he challenged the mining warden's refusal and that he had sought to exploit "a loophole in the scheme" to obtain an advantage over others who had an interest in the mineral potential of the land.

But the judge did find the NT Mines Department should consider a mineral lease application made by Mr. McCleary over deposit RO1103 in Alice Springs.

From his home in Perth today, Mr. McCleary said he had "a little less than half" of what he wanted.

"We've had a hit and a miss," he said.

Asked if he would lodge an appeal, Mr. McCleary said: "Of Course.

"This is only the first battle in rather a large war. We will appeal before the Supreme Court in Darwin and then we will take it to the High Court if needed.

"We have a very, very good case. This has just been heard in a Northern Territory court in front of a Northern Territory judge."

Two weeks ago, junior mining company Segue Resources bought 50 per cent of McCleary's stake. It paid $220,000 in cash and 2.3 million in shares for access to the deposits.

Should he have won the case, Mr. McCleary would have also received 7.5 million additional shares and 7.5 million options.