Flinders Ranges traditional owners hope to stop the progress of the underground coal gasification (UCG) project in Leigh Creek at an upcoming Supreme Court hearing on Tuesday, September 18.
The New South Wales Environmental Defenders Office made an application on behalf of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA), seeking an injunction from the South Australian Supreme Court.
An injunction would delay the operational start-up of the Leigh Creek Energy Project’s Pre-Commercial Demonstration (PCD), which runs as a trial for a potential commercial UCG facility.
The Anggumathahna Camp Law Mob Elders, Aroona Aboriginal Council, and the Adnyamathanha Yura Language and Heritage Association all wrote to Premier Steven Marshall after state government gave the PCD the green light.
Traditional owner Dr Jillian Marsh has called for an end to the UCG project.
“Together we are defending the rights of our people to access our birthplaces and burial grounds and to eat from the land without concern for contamination,” Dr Marsh said.
“We are sick of being ignored by the Premier and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, whose government has approved UCG on our land, despite our clear opposition.”
Scientists and 13 community groups, including Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) and Lock the Gate Alliance, have joined forces with traditional owners in an attempt to halt the project.
UCG, also known as in-situ gasification, involves converting coal from its solid state into a gaseous form.
Professor John Willoughby of the DEA said the idea of setting fire under the ground on which we walk is appalling.
“Workers and people living in surrounding areas will face increased health risks from any gas and toxins released,” he said.
“In approving this, the SA government has also ignored that it will add another coal-mine’s worth of global warming.”
Leigh Creek Energy (LCK) received all three activity notification approvals for the PCD from state government, allowing the company to begin gas production at the former coalfield site.
An LCK statement said the company is “confident and prepared” to defeat the application for an injunction.
“The company has complied, and will continue to comply, with the requirements of South Australian government regulatory authorities in relation to the Leigh Creek Energy Project,” the statement said.
“While the company respects the concerns of members of the community, it does not understand there to be any factual or legal basis to sustain the claims made against it.”
LCK said it is already the largest employer in Leigh Creek.
“LCK is also excited is about its project providing the struggling townships of Leigh Creek and Copley with desperately needed jobs, infrastructure and industry,” the statement said.
“The economic and community development benefits the project will bring to the Upper Spencer Gulf region and South Australia are also significant.”