A new campaign against fracking in the Northern Territory lead by the Aboriginal activist group Protect Country Alliance is gearing up.
The NT overturned its moratorium on fracking in April and Origin aims to resume drilling next year in the Beetaloo basin – the vast oil and gas shale fields 500km south-east of Darwin.
Traditional Owners such as Alawa woman Naomi Wilfred say the community consultation process was inadequate to understand the scale and impact of the mining projects that were approved.
She is one of about 400 people living in the remote town of Minyeerri, 270km southeast of Katherine.
“What worries me about fracking is what it will do to our future generations, our land and our water?” Ms Wilfred said in Getup campaign material.
“They might poison it, and where will our future generations go when the gas mines cover our land?”
'Free, prior and informed consent'
New research released on Wednesday found “most, if not all” fracking projects in the NT were approved without Aboriginal communities fully understanding fracking and its risks.
The Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research argued in its report that without “free, prior and informed consent” those projects were in breach of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Jason De Santol, a Garrwa and Barunngam man who is a senior researcher with the institute, said Australia “can do better”.
As a model example of informed consent, he cited Voisey Bay’s mine in Canada, a nickel operation which went ahead after extensive negotiations with the Inuit and Innu communities.
“I think there can be better outcomes for the communities involved and, as a society, I think it’s really important that we shift and try to make this work,” he told NITV News.
'Immense power imbalances'
Origin will also be questioned next month at the company’s annual general meeting about consent obtained from Traditional Owners for fracking in the NT.
A resolution put forward by the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility proposed a review of the process carried out by the company.
“The Jumbunna report demonstrates exactly why this resolution is necessary,” said Brynn O’Brien, executive director of the ACCR.
“Investors in companies planning to frack the NT cannot ignore the obvious deficiencies with the way consent is obtained on the ground, or the immense power imbalances between corporations and Aboriginal Traditional Owners.”
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique which involves drilling into the earth before injecting a high pressure water and chemical mixture to fracture rock layers and release the oil and gas inside.
With gas prices rising and Australian production falling, a fracking boom could stem the Territory’s ballooning debt levels and boost the outback economy south of Katherine, but there are concerns potentially carcinogenic chemicals may contaminate groundwater.