Media Release: Fed Govt hands Imperial $19.4M to frack the Beetaloo: Traditional Owners comment

March 23, 2022 7:05 PM

Announcement by Minister Keith Pitt that he has reissued a grant of $19.4m to Imperial Oil & Gas to pursue fracking in the Beetaloo Basin, following a Federal Court ruling in December 2021 that Minister Pitt’s original decision to make the grant under the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program was invalid because of ongoing court action.

Imperial Oil and Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of the publicly listed Empire Energy, a Liberal Party donor. Imperial was controversially first granted $21 million by the Morrison government in July 2021, as part of the Federal government’s ‘gas-fired recovery’.

WHO: Traditional owner Johnny Wilson, Chair of the Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, lives in Lightning Ridge, within 20 kms of Empire’s new fracking wells. Mr Wilson recently gave evidence to the Senate Inquiry into oil and gas exploration and production in the Beetaloo Basin and made a submission in February 2022 on behalf of Nurrdalinji to the NT government opposing approval of Imperial’s environment management plan for further exploratory drilling in the Beetaloo.

Mr Wilson said, “A big fracking company should not have its hand out for millions of dollars. $19.4 million would be much better spent on essential services our communities need, like housing, education, health and roads.

“The government is doing the wrong thing backing fracking on our Country, It is poisoning our water, our animals and upsetting the songlines that run across our land.

“There are plenty of our people who don’t want this mining.

“Imagine what this money could bring if it was spent on energy from the sun, not fracking? Aboriginal households could have sunshine keeping them and their families cool and lights on at night. People are living in crowded houses as it gets hotter and hotter.”

Photo of Mr Wilson and Nurrdalinji Deputy Chair here.


The NT government is currently considering Imperial's Environment Management Plan for a significant proposal for 6 fracking wells and 48 water bores and associated infrastructure west of the Stuart Highway on the Sturt Plateau. Submissions closed 17 February 2022.

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.