Fracking sessions tackle concerns

The Department of Mines and Petroleum's petroleum division executive director Jeff Haworth.

Two community open days aimed at raising awareness about the shale and tight gas industry, which uses the technique of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", have been held in Broome and Derby.

The Department of Mines and Petroleum presented the events last week in response to community calls for more information about the industry, which is still in the exploration phase.

Petroleum division executive director Jeff Haworth said attendance at both events was better than expected and proved beneficial to participants and the department.

He said about 60 people attended the Broome event and about 40 in Derby.

"The majority of the community attendees were supportive of the development of shale and gas industry in WA," Mr Haworth said.

"However, like with any developing industry, the community wants to be assured that appropriate processes are in place to regulate the industry and protect people and the environment," he said.

Mr Haworth said some people were surprised to learn that exploration and development of this industry was driven by commercial decisions by petroleum companies and not by the DMP, which was the watchdog to ensure it was developed in a responsible and sustainable way.

The Department of Water joined the DMP at the information sessions.

Mr Haworth said the main questions from both events were about the design and long-term integrity of wells, land access, use of chemicals and protection of aquifers, as well as accountability and transparency of the approvals processes.

"Many people were also not aware that DMP seeks independent advice from other government agencies during the approvals processes in regard to proposed activities," he said.

"Generally, the information was well received and the communities appreciated the Government's efforts to come up and listen to the concerns raised."

Mr Haworth said survey results from the Broome event showed 97.7 per cent of people found the sessions informative to some degree. Only 2.3 per cent found the sessions not informative at all.

In Derby, 96 per cent rated the sessions as very informative, informative, or somewhat informative and 4 per cent found then uninformative.

It was also identified before the session that 43.2 per cent of Broome people attending supported the industry, while 50 per cent were in support after receiving further information.

The numbers of those opposing it did not change after the information sessions.

In Derby, 52 per cent were in support , an increase of 8 per cent in support from before the sessions.

The DMP will have a booth at the Love Broome Expo on May 9-10 this year.

Mr Haworth said commercial production in WA was estimated to be five to 10 years away.

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