By 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.”
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).
Fracking: Do we or don't we have adequate regulations?
By ERWIN CHLANDA