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Indigenous Archaeological Partnership Uncovers the Past


IN 2007, BHP Billiton embarked on an ambitious five-year project to identify, record and salvage archaeological sites on the Olympic Dam mine lease.

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Working in partnership with Huonbrook Environment & Heritage, BHP Billiton funded the appointment of three Aboriginal archaeological assistants to work on the project – Mick McKenzie of Kuyani, Harry Dare of Barngarla and Glen Wingfield of the Kokatha peoples, who each represent local traditional owner groups that have special cultural connections with the region. A video documenting this incredible journey was developed over the course of the five-year dig.

The archaeological sites provide a representative collection of stone artefacts from the region and will help preserve and improve understanding of the cultural heritage surrounding Olympic Dam.

?Some of the artefacts collected from the region.


More than one million artefacts have been collected from around 600sq km of land. The stone artefacts have been catalogued to museum standards and some are presented at fixed displays in Olympic Dam, Roxby Downs and Port Augusta.

In recognition of their outstanding work on the project, the trainees were recipients of the prestigious Daryl West Prize for the best Indigenous presentation at the Australian Archaeological Association’s annual conference. The award highlighted the positive relationship between BHP Billiton Olympic Dam and the three Aboriginal groups that are party to the Olympic Dam Agreement.

Trainee Harry Dare said the main aim of their involvement in the program and the focus of the presentation was to show how the Barngarla, Kokatha and Kuyani can work together to build awareness and understanding of the region’s heritage.

“This program is a stepping stone for what other mining companies can do with Aboriginal communities in their areas,” he said.

“It’s important that more people have a greater understanding of our relationship to country – it’s all about building awareness.”

Olympic Dam Asset President Darryl Cuzzubbo said it was good to see the archaeology program, particularly the trainees, receiving recognition for their efforts.

“This project is an excellent and tangible demonstration of our resolve to make a positive difference in our Olympic Dam community. These artefacts serve as a reminder that we are temporary custodians of the land on which we operate and as such, have an obligation to ensure we do so sustainably and responsibly for the generations to come.” 

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