Leigh Creek Energy Limited and its wholly owned subsidiary, Leigh Creek Operations Pty Ltd, have been granted an authorisation under the Aboriginal Heritage Act which will permit the development of a proposed in-situ gasification project within the former Leigh Creek Coalfield north of Copley in the Flinders Ranges.
In providing the authorisation, Treasurer Rob Lucas has imposed a series of strict conditions on the company which include requiring Leigh Creek Energy to:
- Comply with all requirements of the Aboriginal Heritage Act
- Develop and implement a Cultural Heritage Management Plan to minimise any potential impacts to Aboriginal Heritage
- Have continuing engagement with the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA) through the life of the project on a range of matters including heritage and environmental management and protection and employment and business opportunities
In granting the authorisation, the Treasurer has also declined to issue directions under the Aboriginal Heritage Act requested by ATLA which would have prevented the implementation of the project.
Leigh Creek Energy lodged its application for an authorisation in July 2020 and the views of interested Aboriginal parties have been sought during an extensive consultation process.
“In making these decisions, I am imposing practical measures to protect and preserve heritage while taking into consideration the wider economic benefits to the state of enabling the project to proceed,” Treasurer Rob Lucas said.
“The project will be implemented in an area that has been extensively disturbed over many years by open-cut coal mining activities.
“Leigh Creek Energy has been assessing the potential for development in this area since being issued with an exploration licence by the former Labor Government in 2014.
“In 2016, former Premier Jay Weatherill promoted the South Australian activities of Leigh Creek Energy during a trade mission to China while in the same year, former Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Minister Kyam Maher advised Parliament that Leigh Creek Energy’s exploration activities were not within any heritage sites that were registered.
“Similarly, the project Leigh Creek Energy now proposes to implement would not disturb any registered sites.
“I acknowledge that the State Aboriginal Heritage Committee is opposed to Leigh Creek Energy receiving an authorisation to permit this project to proceed.
“While I have taken into consideration the Committee’s views, I have also taken into account wider economic interests of the state.”
The Premier delegated decisions in this matter to the Treasurer because the Treasurer had previously assessed a request by ATLA in 2018 that a direction be issued to prevent Leigh Creek Energy establishing a Pre-Commercial Demonstration Plant.
On that occasion the Treasurer declined to issue a direction because he did not consider there was enough evidence that the plant would adversely affect Traditional Owner use or the Aboriginal significance of the area.
“‘I acknowledge that the authorisation I am now giving allows Leigh Creek Energy to undertake works that may result in interference with Aboriginal Heritage that Adnyamathanha and Kuyani people say holds specific cultural significance to them because of its association with the Yurlu Kingfisher storyline,” Mr Lucas said.
“However, the conditions of my authorisation require Leigh Creek Energy to minimise disturbance to Aboriginal Heritage by complying with the Heritage Discovery Procedure of the Department of Premier and Cabinet – Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation and a Cultural Heritage Management Plan to be developed after seeking input from ATLA and Traditional Owners.”