SOUTH AUSTRALIA: A resources company has urged the South Australian government to smooth procedures for accessing Aboriginal land, after the High Court upheld a ruling to stop an exploration venture in the state’s north.
The High Court agreed on Friday with a ruling by the SA Supreme Court that blocked Argonaut Resources and its joint venture partner, Straits Resources Ltd, from drilling for copper, gold and iron oxide in parts of Lake Torrens and Andamooka Island.
The companies had been given ministerial approval to access the area, which is part of the traditional lands of the Kokatha Wati and Adnyamathantha people.
But the Supreme Court overturned that approval, ruling that the traditional owners were denied procedural fairness in not being properly consulted.
On Friday the High Court refused the SA government special leave to appeal, a decision Argonaut chairman Patrick Elliott said was no surprise.
“I call on the government of SA to focus its attention on the real job of reforming the Aboriginal Heritage Act to deliver greater certainty and fairness of process to the benefit of traditional owners and explorers alike,” Mr Elliott said in a statement.
He said Argonaut was keen to contribute to any consultation on legal reform, and company directors remained optimistic of a resolution for the Lake Torrens project.
At the time of the Supreme Court challenge the Adnyamathantha Traditional Land Association said the purpose of the lawsuit was not to block all access by mining companies but to ensure the minister properly consulted with traditional owners in such cases.