Buru receives Noonkanbah backing

25/06/2014 - 10:07

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The Aboriginal community that was at the centre of a major land rights dispute, sparked by oil exploration at a remote Kimberley cattle station in the early 1980s, has announced its support for a gas 'fracking' program planned by Perth company Buru Energy.

Buru receives Noonkanbah backing
Yungngora Aboriginal Corporation chairperson Dickey Cox, Buru Energy chief scientist Damian Ogburn and Yungngora Association chairperson Caroline Mulligan, celebrating the landmark decision.

The Aboriginal community that was at the centre of a major land rights dispute in the early 1980's, sparked by oil exploration at a remote Kimberley cattle station, has announced its support for a gas 'fracking' program planned by Perth company Buru Energy.

The Yungngora community at Noonkanbah station said it supports further gas exploration at a well previously drilled by Buru, which is testing for 'tight' gas.

The well forms part of the Laurel formation tight gas exploration program, which has just been given full approval by the Department of Mines and Petroleum.

In reaching the decision, independent scientific specialists appointed by the community assessed the full environment plan for the tight gas exploration program and prepared reports with recommendations for the community to consider. 

The community provided its in-principle support at a formal meeting yesterday at Yungngora community.

Yungngora Community Association chairperson Caroline Mulligan said the support recognised the community’s strong connections with the land and the process adopted by Buru Energy showed respect for the land, the people and their cultural values. 

“In providing this support, the Noonkanbah community has demanded that utmost care and respect be taken of our country,” Ms Mulligan said. 

“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 the project will have very low risk to the country.

“A formal decision will be prepared by the lawyer for the group, Munro Doig, and this will then formalise the arrangements.” 

Yungngora Aboriginal Corporation chair Dickey Cox said the decision demonstrated how community engagement could lead to successful outcomes for both native title holders and recource developers.

Buru Energy has engaged with YAC since 2007, when their predecessor, Arc Energy, first entered into a heritage agreement with us,” Mr Cox said. 

“Since then heritage surveys, monitoring, and now independent expert reports, have ensured that at every step of the way Noonkanbah has been kept informed of what is a significant program both for Buru Energy, as well as potentially for the Noonkanbah people.”

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, the late Sir 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.

“Employment opportunities have already been provided for the community including environmental science training through a structured cadet program, as well as employment through subcontracting such as earthworks, fencing, site remediation, on-site cleaning and cooking, monitoring, and security,” Dr Wulff said.

The 202,340 hectare pastoral station is located about 320 kilometres east of Broome.

Buru’s share price fell by 2.6 per cent to $1.12 at 10:00am WST. 

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