Aboriginal groups push to protect Leigh Creek land

MINING: Leigh Creek Energy are looking into using underground coal gasification on land in the Leigh Creek area.
MINING: Leigh Creek Energy are looking into using underground coal gasification on land in the Leigh Creek area.

THE ANGGUMATHANHA Camp Law Mob and the Adnyamathanha Yura Language and Heritage Association have called on state government to protect land in Leigh Creek from underground coal gasification (UCG).

Sisters Enice and Geraldine Marsh spoke at a Copley Community Meeting, discussing the risks of UCG, which Enice described as a “very serious and dangerous matter.”

Enice, the spokesperson and coordinator of the Camp Law Mob, said it was her duty and law to look after the land.

“We are going to be talking very seriously to the government under the Aboriginal Heritage Act for heritage protection over this land,” she said.

“We look at the news and we see sink holes happening in places and I’m very scared and worried.

“I’ve got family members that still live in Copley who could be faced with the same kind of dangerous situation affecting their homes and my traditional land.”

Enice said Aboriginal people are not only traditional owners, but also know the story and song lines of the land.

“The dreaming of that land is all about the Akurru, which means the water snake,” she said.

“In the time that the Leigh Creek mine was first opened, the Aboriginal people did not have a say over the land, but we can speak for the land now and for protection of sacred sites.”

The UCG process, which involves injecting oxygen into coal seams to convert coal into product gas, has caused controversy in the past when it was banned in Queensland.

The ban came after Linc Energy’s project near Chinchilla led to widespread contamination, resulting in the government filing charges over alleged serious environmental harm.

However, Leigh Creek Energy (LCK) Corporate and Investor Relations Manager Tony Lawry said the company is meeting all environmental and legal requirements.

“In developing the Leigh Creek Energy Project (LCEP), LCK has adopted the principles and the recommendations of the leading and internationally-recognised Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the United States, and its publication ‘Best Practices in Underground Coal Gasification’,” Mr Lawry said.

Mr Lawry said LCK is progressing with its plans to seek regulatory approvals from SA government to make demonstration gas at the LCEP site by the end of 2017.

“ … The five main areas of concern of the community relate to potential impact to cultural heritage, air quality, groundwater, surface water and ground stability,” he said.

“If the demonstration is successful and proves the ongoing environmental and commercial viability of the LCEP, LCK will advance its commercial plans.”

While LCK has worked closely with the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA) on issues of cultural heritage and native title, Enice said the Camp Law Mob and Yura Language Group have not been involved in the process.

“We don’t speak for ATLA. We are the heritage group and we haven’t been given the chance to have a say over the protection over that part of the land,” Enice said.

However,  ATLA is the only recognised body corporate that LCK can formally engage with for the LCEP, according to Mr Lawry.

Mr Lawry said no representatives from the Camp Law Mob and Yura Language Group have attended LCK’s community information sessions held in Copley.