The Australian: Tamboran Resources set to start fracking at Beetaloo Basin without consent of pastoralists and Aboriginal groups

May 25, 2022 3:42 PM

ASX-listed Tamboran Resources is set to become the first Beetaloo Basin gas explorer to begin fracking activities on a Northern Territory cattle station without the consent of pastoralists and Aboriginal groups.

Tamboran won the right to access Tanumbirini Station, south of Katherine, in a lengthy tribunal battle that saw the station operator, Rallen Australia, awarded 1000-fold less compensation than it once demanded.

Tamboran subsidiary Sweetpea Petroleum notified Rallen that it planned to begin work at Tanumbirini on May 25, even though Rallen is appealing the tribunal’s decision.

Rallen maintains that accessing the property is still illegal because although Tamboran can now rightfully enter its exploration area, it can’t use Rallen’s station tracks or create
new ones.

Rallen director Pierre Langenhoven told a Senate inquiry earlier this year that Beetaloo Basin gas exploration should not be “pursued at all” and the gas industry “cannot coexist” with any other industry.

Rallen, a vehicle of the wealthy Ravazzotti and Langenhoven families, has acquired over a million hectares of Beetaloo Basin pastoral leases, mostly since an NT fracking moratorium was lifted, and now appears determined to block onshore gas development.

Mr Langenhoven this week teamed up with traditional owners associated with the anti-fracking Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation to highlight Tamboran’s decision to start work at Tanumbirini.

He said it was “unprecedented in the NT that a fracking company is trying to force access onto a cattle station without the consent of pastoralists”.

“Pastoralists have no choice but to divert time and resources to protect what’s special to all of us who live and work here – our water, our land and our cattle industry,” he said.

Nurrdalinji chairman Johnny Wilson was “happy to have formed a strong partnership with pastoralists who share our wish to protect country and water”.

“Cattle is the backbone of our economy and provides food,” he said. “We have never been consulted by Sweetpea, and we are worried that this fracking will damage our sacred sites and pollute the water which flows through our country”.

The high-profile dispute is being seen as a significant test of the regulatory framework set to oversee the development of one of the most prospective new onshore gas provinces. Tamboran and Santos’s joint Tanumbirini project may be a prime candidate to help refill the Santos-operated Darwin LNG plant.

Tamboran chief executive Joel Riddle said his company was “working closely with all stakeholders, including pastoral leaseholders and the Northern Land Council, in
preparation for our activities”.

Pastoralists and traditional owners supported by Nurrdalinji gathered at Tanumbirini on Wednesday. The Australian understands the company did not enter the station.

Sweetpea has warned Rallen it could face a compensation claim if it blocks access.

A Rallen spokeswoman said the company “has no evidence that ... Sweetpea has lawful authority to enter”. “If they cut fences without Rallen’s consent and clear vegetation ... they will be acting unlawfully,” she said.

Amos Aikman
Northern Correspondent