A conservation group in the Kimberley is calling for six oil and gas exploration licences released this month by the Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) to be withdrawn.
The leases cover sensitive areas of the region, including two national parks — Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek — and two conservation parks — Devonian Reef and Brooking Gorge. Another lease covers the Margaret River that flows into the Fitzroy.
Environs Kimberley Director Martin Pritchard said: “These parks are world famous for their incredible beauty, and environmental, historical and cultural importance. We can’t believe the DMP have put leases for fracking anywhere near places like this.
"There's no way on earth that anyone with any kind of understanding of the Kimberley would put a fracking lease on Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek National Park.
"That area is incredibly important both from a tourism perspective, environmentally and culturally, and it's obvious that the DMP has not taken that into consideration at all, otherwise they wouldn't have put a fracking lease there."
Bidding on the six petroleum leases are open until March next year.
“We’re calling on the Minister for Mines Sean L’Estrange to withdraw these leases before companies waste time on putting in bids. There is no doubt that any attempt to frack in these areas will be met with widespread opposition,” Pritchard said.
DMP acting executive director for the petroleum division Denis Wills said oil and gas exploration within the national parks and conservation parks would only be possible after a petroleum company had come to an agreement with native title holders.
In that case, Pritchard said: “We’re also calling on the DMP to hold open public meetings in Broome and Fitzroy Crossing so that communities have an opportunity to ask questions about what’s being proposed for their country. The DMP’s current weeklong visit is invitation only and not advertised so the general public can’t go along.”
Fracking has been used in other parts of the Canning Basin, the massive geological structure that the new leases also fall within. Fracking was conducted in the Kimberley by Buru Energy in 2010 and 2015 as part of the company's evaluation of tight gas resources.