Fracking: Do we or don't we have adequate regulations?


p2217-fracking-10By ERWIN CHLANDA
On August 20, Ron Kelly, CE of the NT Department of Mines, told the Alice Springs News Online that some people in the fracking debate misinterpret the recommendation, in the Hydraulic Fracturing Inquiry by Allan Hawke, that the controversial process should be subject adequate regulations.
“People read this as meaning we don’t have these regulations. We do,” said Mr Kelly.
On August 26 Chief Minister Adam Giles announced “guiding principles [setting] out the Government’s expectations of how the oil and gas industry is expected to operate while a comprehensive review of the existing regulations is undertaken”.
These guiding principles include “hydraulic fracturing,” says Mr Giles.
If Mr Kelly is right there seems to be no need for a “comprehensive review of the existing regulations”. So why is Mr Giles announcing one?
And if a review is needed, as Mr Giles clearly thinks it is, than should not Dr Hawke’s recommendation be followed to defer fracking – that means having a moratorium – until the adequacy or otherwise of the fracking regulations is established?
Mr Giles says Northern Territory gas has the potential to unlock significant economic benefits for Territorians.
“It is estimated the Northern Territory has more than 200 trillion cubic feet of unconventional gas resources in six onshore basins and 30 trillion cubic feet of conventional offshore reserves.
“These resources represent a significant opportunity for sustainable development in regional and remote areas, including jobs, better roads, reliable and cheaper power, and increased funds for Government services.
“The Northern Territory Government’s vision is to have in place the best possible regulatory system that will allow for the future growth of the onshore oil and gas industry in a balanced and environmentally sustainable manner.
“We commissioned an inquiry last year by Dr Allan Hawke which confirmed the Territory’s onshore gas reserves can be developed and managed effectively with robust and transparent regulations.”
Meanwhile a statement from Drew Wagner, the Executive Director, Minerals Council of Australia NT Division, says the mining industry “has been a key pillar of the Northern Territory economy for many years.
“It accounts for about 16% of the Territory’s economy and over the last 20 years has been the foundation for the Territory’s economic and social success.
“In 2013-14, the mining output in the Territory was valued at over $3.5b, with more than 5000 Territorians employed in the sector.
“The industry has a bright future with more than $6b in planned investment currently in the pipeline.  This investment will create further jobs for Territorians in Darwin, major regional centres and in remote regions,” says Mr Wagner.
“Business requires certainty and consistency in order to make long-term investments.  Constant policy changes create uncertainty in the mining sector and could threaten current and potential projects.
“In recent times, groups that are ideologically opposed to mining have made various claims about the sector, some of which are inaccurate and potentially damaging to the Territory’s economy.  It is vital that the facts are widely understood so policy decisions are based on long-term interests rather than knee-jerk reactions.”
UPDATE 11:30am
Mr Wagner says he does not represent the gas industry.
However, while there is no disquiet in Central Australia at present about currently planned mining projects, investments in them could fall victim to “demonising” of the industry elsewhere – including abroad: “Public lambasting of the industry will affect investment across the Territory.”
He says in The Centre a new gold miner, ABM, has started operations in the Tanami and “is looking at expanding”.
Several other projects, potentially worth $4b to $5b, are “moving for final investment decisions” or are progressing in the approval process:-
• Arafura (rare earths near Aileron).
• The Chandler salt mine near Titjikala.
• KJL (vanadium oxide – similar to rare  earths, near Ti Tree).
• TNG (tungsten, at Moly Hill, near Jervois).


  1. Jobs? How many people work at Mereenie gas field? Cheaper fuel? Are the miners going to sell it to Territorians cheaper than what they can get for it elsewhere? I doubt it.

  2. Do we really know the true interpretation of this little quote?
    “Business requires certainty and consistency in order to make long-term investments.”
    The true interpretation is “foreign investors require a guarantee that they can rape the Territory with impunity”.

  3. @ Mr Wagner: Why is a widely accepted view that expanding gas industries will simply replace one form of CO2 emission with another demonising the mining industry?
    Several mining projects are indicated in the supplement to the article and all will be considering options for energy.
    Solar is now accepted from Chile to Ravensthorpe and likely soon in Territory mines. Those who object to gas mining have a range of well founded reasons but it does not mean they object to all mining.

  4. This whole issue is far too compromised with differing interpretations of what something means to run the risks associated with the potential contamination of our regional water supplies.
    There are alternative renewable options that do not threaten our water supply. Why do we not explore those with more intense vigour? The constant dollar-driven mantra by the current government has become tiresome and without substance, with no mention of the social impacts (apart from some projected employment figures).
    The whole push by government appears to be more closely aligned with keeping mining companies happy rather than investing in the future of the human and other populations of the region.
    With a minority government now a reality for anything up to 12 months, there are opportunities for the Parliament to re-think the policy position and introduce a moratorium until such times as “the science” is verified. That would invariably be supported by an Independent / Labor majority as it reflects their individual charters.

  5. A good guide as to how effective regulations are in the NT is the ongoing saga of the McArthur river mine.
    There are massive concerns regarding pollution and whether the mining company has the capacity or inclination to restore the area if it is closed down.
    If these regulations are not enough to protect this beautiful area, how can we have faith that the regulations regarding fracking will be any different?
    What use are regulations if there is an “accident” and the aquifers are irreversibly damaged? The company goes belly up and who is left to pick up the pieces?
    All the kings horses and all the kings men? Didn’t do Humpty much good, and these aquifers are just as fragile.
    Use the McArthur River as a test case.
    If the government can use their existing regulations to cover this ongoing debacle, and return the river to its natural state, well maybe then I’ll support it.


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