MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Australia: Argonaut Resources drills Sacred Lake Torrens despite Aboriginal opposition

Published by MAC on 2021-04-17
Source: Market Herald, ABC

One of the most significant cultural sites in South Australia.

Argonaut Resources has started drilling at its Murdie Project despite claims from Aboriginal peoples that it would damage a sacred area.

Kuyani woman Regina McKenzie said: "There was no consultation with Kuyani people, there were no assessments done on our tangible and intangible aspects of the lake. All South Australians should be up in arms; it's a beautiful lake and it should be protected. Money speaks louder than protection of the environment — short-term gain speaks louder".

See also:
 
2012-01-23 Australian gold mines' tarnished glitter
2011-01-25 Australia's Kokatha People win a land rights victory
 

Argonaut Resources begins drilling at Murdie despite Aboriginal opposition

The project covers part of Lake Torrens, which is a sacred site to at least four Aboriginal groups but does not have any native title protections.

Oliver Gray

https://themarketherald.com.au/argonaut-resources-asxare-begins-drilling-at-murdie-despite-aboriginal-opposition-2021-03-22/

22 March 2021

Argonaut Resources (ARE) has started drilling at its Murdie Project despite claims from an Aboriginal group that it would damage a sacred area.

Wholly owned by Argonaut through its subsidiary Kelaray, the 1015-square-kilometre project covers part of Lake Torrens — the second largest salt lake in Australia — which is a sacred site to at least four Aboriginal groups but does not have any native title protections.

Last year, South Australia's Aboriginal Affairs minister, Premier Steven Marshall, green-lit an application from Argonaut to drill for iron oxide copper-gold mineralisation at Murdie.

The clearance was promptly followed by a legal challenge filed in the South Australian Supreme Court by the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation, which sought a review of the approval.

SA Native Title Services (SANTS) also launched a Freedom of Information request for documents relating to the Premier's decision to approve the project.

"It reveals that the South Australian Heritage Committee said 'no, don't mine', so he's gone against the advice of his own agency," said SANTS CEO, Keith Thomas.

"Lake Torrens is one of the most significant cultural sites in South Australia," he continued.

Jason Bilney, chair of the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation, said he hoped the legal proceedings would set a precedent that drilling was not allowed at Lake Torrens.

"We don't want any mining to go ahead on Lake Torrens," he added.

"It's the same as Juukan Gorge over in Western Australia, they just gave approval and they desecrated over 60,000 years of history."

Despite the Kokatha, the Adnyamathanha, the Kuyani and the Barngarla people's unsuccessful campaign for Native Title, the lake contains a sacred cave, a water spring, rock etchings and Aboriginal work areas.

However, Argonaut said this morning that there are no registered Barngarla heritage sites at Lake Torrens, adding that it's "confident that the State's authorisation process was robust."

The company intends to drill an initial four or five holes at the Murdie Project, focussing on a residual gravity anomaly known as Smith Dam 1. The first 1100-metre hole is expected to take roughly 28 days to complete, with drilling to be carried out around the clock.


Sacred Lake Torrens at centre of legal battle over Argonaut Resources drilling proposal

Gary-Jon Lysaght

ABC North and West SA https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-18/legal-bid-to-halt-lake-torrens-drilling/13255616

17 March 2021

Legal proceedings have been launched against a minerals exploration company drilling for ore on the surface of Australia's second largest salt lake.

Lake Torrens, in outback South Australia, is a sacred site to at least four Aboriginal groups, but it does not have any native title protections.

In 2020, SA's Aboriginal Affairs minister, Premier Steven Marshall, approved an application from exploration company Kelaray, a subsidiary of Argonaut Resources, to drill for ore on the lake's surface.

The company is targeting iron oxide copper gold (IOCG), a valuable mineralisation also found at BHP's Olympic Dam.

The Adnyamathanha, Barngarla, Kokatha and Kuyani people all have stories connected to the lake.

Now, the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation has launched legal action to halt the drilling, which is set to begin this week.

The corporation has filed judicial review proceedings.

"These proceedings seek the reversal of an authorisation given by the State of South Australia to mining company, Kelarary Pty Ltd, to damage sacred Aboriginal heritage at Lake Torrens as part of their exploration drilling program," the corporation said.

Setting a precedent

Corporation chair Jason Bilney hoped the legal proceedings would result in Kelaray's drilling approval being revoked and that it set a precedent that drilling was not allowed on Lake Torrens.

"We don't want any mining to go ahead on Lake Torrens," he said.

"It's the same as Juukan Gorge over in Western Australia, they just gave approval and they desecrated over 60,000 years of history."

Mr Bilney said the Barngarla people had voiced opposition to the project when it was first being proposed.

"We don't think [the Premier] listened to us as traditional owners," he said.

Mr Bilney said he, and Barngarla elders, made a submission to the Premier outlining why they did not want drilling to take place.

"He disregarded them," he said.

"Being the Premier and the minister for Aboriginal Affairs, he should be supporting us."

Against departmental advice

SA Native Title Services launched a Freedom of Information request for documents relating to the Premier's decision to approve the project.

"It reveals that the South Australian Heritage Committee said 'no, don't mine', so he's gone against the advice of his own agency," SANTS CEO Keith Thomas said.

A majority of stakeholders that made submissions to the Premier opposed the drilling on the lake.

Mr Thomas said an injunction on the drilling project was the next likely step for the Barngarla.

"Lake Torrens is one of the most significant cultural sites in South Australia," he said.

"When you have a site that's part of a dreaming story, it's about the creation and about that connection of people to country."

Changing the act

The South Australian Greens have suggested changes to the state Aboriginal Heritage Act, which would give First Nations people a greater voice in the decision making process.

"We have that opportunity at the moment because the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee is doing a review into Aboriginal heritage," Mr Thomas said.

"The preamble to the act says it's an act to protect and preserve Aboriginal sites and the main thing that's coming out of it is the destruction of Aboriginal lands.

"The minister, at the end of the day, has the ability to make a decision to destroy an Aboriginal cultural site.

"[Changes] should happen in an increasingly modern and open minded world about Aboriginal culture — we saw with Juukan Gorge, the outrage."

Drilling will continue

Premier Steven Marshall's office said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the legal proceedings.

"As the application on behalf of the Barngarla people for a judicial review of this matter has been lodged with the Supreme Court, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment," a spokesperson said.

Argonaut Resources CEO Lindsay Owler did not respond to requests for an interview, but the company said it was aware of the legal bid.

"The company notes that there are no registered Barngarla heritage sites at Lake Torrens," it said in a statement to the ASX.

South Australia's Mining and Energy minister, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, said the legal action would not halt the project.

"While I won't comment on the legal process, I can confirm the company is entitled to continue working at the site," he said.


SA Government approves drilling on sacred Lake Torrens, despite opposition from Aboriginal groups

Gary-Jon Lysaght

ABC North and West SA https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-05/sa-government-approves-lake-torrens-sacred-site-drilling/13030346

5 January 2021

The South Australian Government has granted a minerals exploration company permission to "damage, disturb or interfere" with a sacred Aboriginal site in the state's outback.

Lake Torrens does not have any native title protections but it is an important site to several Aboriginal nations.

Kelaray, a subsidiary of Argonaut Resources, made an application to the State Government under Section 23 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act to conduct drilling on the Lake.

That section allows the South Australian Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Premier Steven Marshall, the ability to allow the damage and destruction of Aboriginal sites.

In a letter from Mr Marshall obtained by the ABC, the Premier said he considered Kelaray's mitigation strategies in making his assessment.

"I have granted Kelaray … authority under Section 23 of the Act to damage, disturb or interfere with any Aboriginal sites, objects or remains," the Premier said.

"Kelaray will be required to ensure that any Aboriginal heritage discovered during the exploration project is recorded appropriately.

"I acknowledge the authorisation gives Kelaray authority to undertake works that will likely result in interference with the Lake Torrens Aboriginal Site.

"However, I expect Kelaray to honour its undertaking to ensure that its staff and contractors do not access areas of high cultural sensitivity."

Mr Marshall also encouraged Kelaray to consider Aboriginal employment "wherever possible" and to "consider engaging Aboriginal heritage monitors".

Culture disrespected

The Kokatha, Barngarla, Adnyamathanha and Kuyani Aboriginal people all have storylines connected to Lake Torrens.

Kuyani woman Regina McKenzie said the exploration approvals include Murdie Island.

"There was no consultation with Kuyani people, there were no assessments done on our tangible and intangible aspects of the lake," she said.

"All South Australians should be up in arms; it's a beautiful lake and it should be protected.

"Money speaks louder than protection of the environment — short-term gain speaks louder.

"When they do find the ore bodies they're looking for, they're then going to say to us 'for the good of the state, we're going to do mining'.

"Our rights are always trampled on, our rights are always looked at in a negative way.

"This is my culture; my culture is the oldest living culture in the world and it's disrespected in this way."

Plans to protect lake

Argonaut released a statement to the ASX following the approvals, saying the drilling would target "iron oxide copper-gold mineralisation in the same style of Olympic Dam, Carrapateena and BHP's recent Oak Dam discovery".

The company said it will use "purpose-built" drill mats on the lake's surface to "protect the salt crust".

"Vehicles will access the drilling rig via temporary tracks covered by ground protection mats," it said.

The company also intends to have regular visits by Aboriginal representatives and report regularly to certain Aboriginal groups.

"The approval permits the drilling of up to 200 deep diamond drill holes into large, dense copper targets from the salt crust of Lake Torrens," the company said.

"Authorised drilling is subject to strict environmental controls."

Works are expected to begin in early 2021.

 

Home | About Us | Companies | Countries | Minerals | Contact Us
© Mines and Communities 2013. Web site by Zippy Info