ABC News: Traditional owners angry after Beetaloo gas company Empire Energy fails to report stone tools find to regulator

June 06, 2024 11:50 AM
  • In short: Empire Energy has reported it did not tell the NT heritage regulator that Aboriginal stone tools were found near a well and then moved.
  • Traditional owners are calling for the NT government to explain how it will respond to this and other breaches of the company's gas project conditions.
  • What's next? The NT Heritage Branch has told the ABC it is investigating and the environment minister says the matters raised are being assessed.

Traditional owners are calling on the Northern Territory government to not allow a fracking company to move from exploring the Beetaloo Basin to selling gas, after it failed to report a find of ancient Indigenous stone tools near one of its exploration wells to the territory's heritage regulator. 

Empire Energy is planning to move from exploration fracking to selling gas from its Carpentaria Pilot Project, situated 160 kilometres east of Borroloola, next year.

Under its project conditions, the company was required to check for Aboriginal cultural heritage sites to be avoided.

A photo showing a man wearing a denim jacket with a royal blue t shirt and crossed hand
Cain O'Keefe has asked the NT Heritage Branch to commission a new cultural heritage survey of Empire Energy's EP187 gas lease.(Supplied: Cain O'Keefe)

Karranjini traditional owner Cain O'Keefe said he had been excited to join Empire Energy surveys which found that its archaeologists determined was a "significant" "medium density archaeological site", containing stone tools, near its Carpentaria 4 exploration well named Balbirini 3.

"I found them – a stone axe head and other pieces [were] in lines in a few trees, and 100 metres from that, a few spearheads," Mr O'Keefe said.

"It was so emotional. It took them that long to make a stone head axe from hand – it was a nice piece you hold with either your left or right hand."

a man holding an ancient aboriginal spear head
Cain O'Keefe was excited to accompany Empire Energy's archaeological survey team when it found the Aboriginal spearheads and other stone tools.(Supplied: Cain O'Keefe)

By Jane Bardon | Read the full story now.