A controversial drilling project is set to begin in South Australia this week despite opposition from Aboriginal groups.

Key points:

  • SA Premier Steven Marshall approved the exploration last year, highlighting the possible economic benefits
  • The Murdie project will target iron-oxide copper gold and is located near a similar, full-fledged mining operation
  • Argonaut resources says 20 semitrailers’ worth of equipment has arrived at the site

Late last year, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall approved exploration company Kelaray’s application to drill on the surface of Lake Torrens.

The project, which uses diamond drills to burrow down into the ground, is opposed by at least four Aboriginal groups.

The Kuyani, Kokatha, Adnyamathanha and Barngarla people all have stories connected to the lake.

Mr Marshall said the potential economic benefits of the Murdie project outweighed the possible environmental impacts.

Kelaray’s parent company, Argonaut Resources, said in a statement to the ASX that 20 truckloads of “drilling equipment, accommodation units, ground protection matting and ancillary vehicles” had been delivered to the site.

“The drilling crew is currently testing environmental protection equipment, undergoing training for specialist equipment and receiving site inductions,” it said.

The shoreline of Lake Torrens, a salt lake in outback South Australia.(

Supplied: Rebecca Tayler


Ore beneath the lake

Argonaut Resources said the project was targeting iron-oxide copper gold (IOCG).

That mineralisation is the same as what is found at BHP’s Olympic Dam, one of the world’s largest mines.

“The Murdie exploration licences cover two large scale, regional gravity anomalies — West Torrens and Murdie,” the company said.

“These anomalies represent locations with significant volumes of high-density rock that could contain economic IOCG deposits.

“IOCG orebodies contain high concentrations of iron and copper minerals, making them particularly dense.”

Argonaut has two “highly prospective” exploration licences over the Lake Torrens area.

They sites are near the Oz Minerals Carrapateena mine, which targets copper and gold.