Fed Govt hands Empire Energy $28.8m “R&D” money to frack the Beetaloo: Traditional Owners comment

February 20, 2024 11:57 AM

WHAT: Senate Estimates has revealed Empire Energy was granted a total of $28.8M in public funding to pursue fracking in the Beetaloo Basin as part of a “R&D” scheme which stipulates funds cannot be used for "prospecting, exploring or drilling for minerals.” The Federal government has promised to investigate. ABC

Empire Energy was controversially first granted $21 million in July 2021, as part of the Morrison government’s ‘gas-fired recovery’. Empire is exploring for gas and has recently commenced consultation on its Carpentaria pilot project which involves 10 new fracking wells. 

WHO: Djingili elder Samuel Janama Sandy is the Chair of the Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation which represents native title holders from the Beetaloo Basin. He lives in a housing commission flat in Katherine, 400 km from his home town of Elliott, in order to access the dialysis he needs three days a week.

Mr Sandy said, “Empire is putting public money in their pocket that should be spent elsewhere on community.  $28.8 million could fund housing, roads, health and put solar on roofs, using the sun which is free.

“The money could build a new dialysis clinic in Elliott, my home town, helping me and other Aboriginal people who are forced to move away from family to get dialysis.

“Communities don’t see jobs or economic benefits from this gas company’s drilling. It’s all about company profits.

“Empire is talking to the government and getting money under the table. It should be happening on the table. We need to switch the light on so we can all see what’s happening.”

Photo of Mr Sandy here.


The Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation includes native title holders from the Amungee Mungee, Beetaloo, Hayfield, Kalala, Newcastle Waters - Murranji, Nutwood Downs, Shenandoah, Tandyidgee, Tanumbirini, Daly Waters Township, Ucharonidge native title determinations.

The Beetaloo sub-basin is located around 500 kilometres south-east of Darwin. It embraces Aboriginal land, pastoral leases (which co-exist with Native Title rights and interests), horticultural enterprises, cattle stations and remote Aboriginal communities. A number of companies are currently undertaking fracked gas drilling in the region, with most of the NT covered by exploration permits.