The South Australian Government has approved drilling on a sacred Aboriginal site. 

Exploration firm Kelaray, a subsidiary of Argonaut Resources, applied to the State Government under Section 23 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act to conduct drilling on Lake Torrens. 

There are no native title protections for the lake, but several Aboriginal nations consider it an important site, with the Kokatha, Barngarla, Adnyamathanha and Kuyani Aboriginal people all having storylines connected to Lake Torrens.

The Act allows South Australian Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Premier Steven Marshall, to allow the damage and destruction of Aboriginal sites.

“I have granted Kelaray … authority under Section 23 of the Act to damage, disturb or interfere with any Aboriginal sites, objects or remains,” the Premier said in a letter obtained by reporters. 

“Kelaray will be required to ensure that any Aboriginal heritage discovered during the exploration project is recorded appropriately.

“I acknowledge the authorisation gives Kelaray authority to undertake works that will likely result in interference with the Lake Torrens Aboriginal Site.

“However, I expect Kelaray to honour its undertaking to ensure that its staff and contractors do not access areas of high cultural sensitivity.”

Local Indigenous groups say they were not consulted, and are left feeling trampled. 

Argonaut says its drilling will target “iron oxide copper-gold mineralisation in the same style of Olympic Dam, Carrapateena and BHP's recent Oak Dam discovery”, using “purpose-built” drill mats on to “protect the salt crust” of the lake’s surface.

“Vehicles will access the drilling rig via temporary tracks covered by ground protection mats,” it said.

Works are expected to begin in coming weeks.