Aboriginal leaders hit back at mining claim
Aboriginal leaders in South Australia’s far north have rejected claims by explorer Argonaut Resources that the state’s Aboriginal Heritage Act is anti-mining.
In 2010, the Government granted Argonaut a licence to explore 6300 hectares of land near Lake Torrens in a joint venture with Straits Resources.
Traditional Owners appealed against that decision, taking their case to the South Australian Supreme Court.
Their appeal was upheld, prompting Argonaut to claim the Act gives too much power to Traditional Owners to veto mining.
Argonaut Resources director Lindsay Owler says lawyers for Traditional Owners targeted his company’s project as a way of testing the law.
He says the Act should be changed because of the potential for mischievous use.
“It is something we’d absolutely like to see amended for the benefit of the mining industry in particular,” he said.
“It’s something that we know that certain members of the State Government are alive to and there have been- we understand- there have been moves already during 2011 to amend this section of the Act but they didn’t get through Cabinet.”
A member of the Kokatha-Uwankara Native Title claim group that covers the area around Lake Torrens says the company has not respected local Indigenous cultural concerns.
University of Adelaide Professor Roger Thomas says the group launched its appeal after the company attempted to bypass a section of the Act.
“We went to the negotiation table in good faith,” he said.
“We have always maintained the position with Lake Torrens that it is a sight of significance and they’re not the first we’ve said no test drilling on the lake’s surface.
“We made it very clear all the way through that Lake Torrens, the surface of Lake Torrens and certainly the shorelines… is of significant cultural importance to us and that we would not support or agree to any mining company doing any test drilling.
“They haven’t got their way, they’ve lost the appeal and they’re now trying to put some kind of blame on the Aboriginal community and the Native Title applicants. We acted in a manner that was protecting our cultural rights.”