The Aboriginal community that staged Australia’s most famous protest against oil drilling on a sacred site has thrown its support behind a plan to frack for gas in the area.
The Yungngora Community at Noonkanbah Station has announced its in-principle support for Buru Energy’s proposal to test tight gas flows using hydraulic fracturing stimulation on a well along its Laurel Formation prospect in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.
The well is on traditional owner land, a 400,000 sqkm pastoral station about 320km east of Broome.
The announcement comes after the state’s Department of Mines and Petroleum approved Buru’s plan earlier this week.
Yungngora Community Association chairwoman Caroline Mulligan said the people of Noonkanbah Station had demanded the company take utmost care of their country.
“We have been very thorough in our assessment of this project; we have appointed independent experts to provide us with technical advice; their advice is that this project will have very low risk to country,” Ms Mulligan said.
“We have accepted their advice.”
The chairman of the registered corporate body that holds the native title, Dickey Cox, said Buru’s predecessor Arc Energy had first engaged with the Yungngora people in 2007.
Mr Cox was a key player in the 1979 and 1980 protests against exploratory drilling plans by US oil company Amax.
The fight culminated in the then-WA Liberal premier Charles Court sending a 45-strong convoy of non-union drilling rigs and trucks from Perth to force through a picket line at Noonkanbah.
All along the way it was met by protesters.
In the end, Amax got its way - but no oil was found.
Buru managing director Keiran Wulff said securing the support of the community that had so famously opposed an energy project more than 30 years ago was all about listening carefully to concerns, respecting the cultural heritage of the land and providing jobs.
“For a very early stage program, what we didn’t want to do was start off on the wrong foot,” Dr Wulff told AAP.
“You can’t do this just only being interested in the exploitation of resources - you really do have to have a passion for doing something for the community up there as well.”
He said traditional owners would review each stage of the project.
The company is also in talks with the indigenous community at Yawuru where Buru has two wells that it plans to frack. A fourth well is in an unclaimed area.
The pilot program scheduled to commence in the second half of 2014.