An Aboriginal group has launched an 11th-hour bid to stop underground gas extraction at Leigh Creek in South Australia’s far north.
The Adnyamathanha people today applied for an injunction in South Australia’s Supreme Court to halt plans to trial underground coal gasification at Leigh Creek’s former coalfields.
The Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association is arguing that Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan should not have given final approval for the energy project.
Senior traditional owner Vince Coulthard said the site held important significance to yulu muda, the Kingfisher Man, one of the major creation ancestors of the Adnyamathanha people.
While the site was home to a coal mine that supplied the Alinta power station in Whyalla up until its closure in late 2015, Mr Coulthard said it now needed to be given the opportunity to “heal”.
“It’s been damaged over the years, certainly, what needs to happen is a healing process needs to be put in place to give yulu another life,” he said.
“Yulu is important to my people and we need to do whatever it takes to protect it.”
He said Aboriginal groups in the area had not been consulted with to the level he would have hoped for the project.
“Not to the way we should — there’s been consultations happening … however we feel that it could have been done in a better way,” he said.
The group’s lawyer Steven Churches told the court Leigh Creek Energy’s environmental statement on the project was “deficient” and did not comply with the law.
He asked that the challenge be heard by the Full Court of the Supreme Court.
Company halts trade on ASX
After being served the court documents late yesterday, Leigh Creek Energy halted trading on the Australian Stock Exchange.
The halt came just days after the company saw a surge in its share value following the Government’s sign off on the project.
The Government’s approval means the group is able to commence a three-month trial of underground coal gasification — a process that involves setting fire to coal underground to extract synthetic gas, known as syngas.
If the trial is successful, it would be the next step towards commercialising gas production at Leigh Creek.
Leigh Creek Energy’s Joe DeRuvo said the company needed time to “digest” the court documents.
“We don’t intend on doing any activities that would be in breach of the orders sought until Monday,” Mr DeRuvo said.
The market notice said the trading halt was made pending a company announcement and would remain in place until Monday.
The case is also due to return to court on Monday.
The State Government has been approached for comment.