Philip Maclaren’s Lightning Mine (HarperCollins 1999, 313p.) is a zero-detection thriller that focuses on the political influence of the powerful multinational mining industry on contemporary Australian society. By choosing the country’s Top End, rich in minerals, as its setting, it allows for an analysis of mining’s impact on nature and culture, and the fight of the Aboriginal owners to put a stop to the destruction of sacred land. The novel’s depiction of aggressive and violent presidential and corporate politics, murders included, challenges the white mainstream’s entitlement to traditional country. It puts the novel’s resolution in the hands of Namarrkon, “The Lightning Spirit [who] causes severe tropical storms, destroys homes, and kills people.” McLaren draws inspiration for this character from local Dreamtime accounts:
“It is believed that if man disturbs the sacred dreaming site of Namarrkon, the Spirit will send a violent storm which will result in severe destruction and death. About 30 miles east of Oenpelli there is a taboo dreaming site called Namarrkon which is the camping place of this Dreamtime Spirit. It is a sacred site which is rarely approached by Aboriginal people who fear the wrath of the lightning spirit who lives there” (1999: 312-3).
In the novel, McLaren makes the severe lightning Namarrkon provokes scientifically plausible by linking it to the massive presence of iron ore deposits in the area, and so responsible for the total annihilation of the MDG Global Mining corporation’s brand-new extraction installations. As Alexis Wright does in her epic Carpentaria (2006), McLaren lets the land itself restore the natural balance that the capitalist excesses of white civilisation have disturbed.