Mineral Resources Tasmania (MRT) is offering the Petroleum (Category 4) Exploration Release Area 981 to mining companies between Jan 18 and 22. The ERA981 covers a large proportion of the Central Plateau, upper Derwent and Styx Valleys, as well as ranges to the west of Kunanyi/Mount Wellington. This area includes catchments for Hobart’s water supply and various irrigation schemes (see map).
It is of note that since Great South Land Minerals were denied an extension on the previous exploration license, some sections have been excluded – including new World Heritage Area extensions and Aboriginal Land (see map).
Frack Free Tas warns any companies considering exploring for unconventional oil and gas that Tasmanians have demonstrated there is no social license for any fracking in our island state.
Shaun Thurstans, Frack Free Tas President: “The recent review on hydraulic fracturing confirmed a lack of knowledge on groundwater connections, still no viable way to treat contaminated water and extensive community distrust in the use of the technology.”
“There is a cascade of examples of fracking operations leading to sick communities, earthquakes and permanent contamination of places. The fact that exploration for unconventional gas can expand confirms that the Tasmanian five year moratorium on fracking is a farce.
“The government is not serious about giving landowners, producers or tourism operators a guarantee that this will not occur in this state.” said Shaun Thurstans.
The application process for this exploration release area does not require any advertising or input from affected landowners.
Shaun Thurstans: “This behind-the-scenes regulation is how unsafe gas extraction processes have been approved on the mainland, and then companies respond to the lack of accountability with disregard for compliance. As an example, a recent report on Origin energy exposes their lack of knowledge of how many wells they actually have in Queensland, let alone if they are leaking or not. Right now, with low oil prices, there is the real prospect of companies going broke, leaving no funds to even de-commission the wells, a scenario seen in the U.S.”
Whistleblower accounts from Queensland also point to scientific advice being ignored in the rush to let the drillers in. “There is a clear conflict of interest with state governments being the umpire and short-term beneficiary from royalties. The long term water quality issues are forgotten when deals are done.” said Shaun Thurstans.
Frack Free Tas wants a legislated permanent ban on fracking in Tasmania, as is law in New York, France, Bulgaria and many other jurisdictions. Moratoriums and reviews are merely stalling tactics; playing politics while leaving options open for unsafe extraction of fossil fuels in a world desperately needing low carbon solutions.