Mining update: fracking

Buru Energy is continuing exploration and development of the Canning Basin. They’re interested in further testing and exploring for gas at two sites—Yulleroo and Valhalla, where there are four existing wells.

The gas they’re keen to test is buried between 2-4km below the ground. It’s known as ‘unconventional gas’ because it’s locked tight within the rock. To get to it, Buru needs to use a process called fracking or hydraulic fracturing. Fracking could potentially pose a risk to Country and a risk to human health.

Here’s how it works: a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pumped down into the well and shoots out through holes in the well wall and into the rock. The sand in the mixture causes tiny cracks in the rock and this is how the gas is unlocked and released.

One worry, is that although the fracking at Yulleroo and Valhalla will be 2-4km underground, the process might poison our drinking water, which is 20-500m from the surface.

Buru Energysay fracking is a safe process and that the technique has been perfected by operators and thoroughly assessed by independent scientists and analysts. They say the aquifer located under Buru Energy’s sites does not flow into Broome’s water supply, so there is no chance of contamination of the town’s drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), wrote to Buru saying Buru do not need to have a formal environmental assessment as their tests are ‘unlikely to have a significant effect on the environment.’

APPEA says incidences of water contamination were not from fracking but from problems will wells such as minor leaks.

WA’s Water Corporation says there are potential risks to the public’s drinking water from fracking.

WA’s Government says the protection of water resources is it’s highest priority and all chemicals used in a well must be approved.

The National Toxics Network says the group of chemicals Buru will use in fracking are toxic, with some known to cause birth defects in animals.

The Australian Council of Learned Academies says there have been no cases internationally where fracking has accidently hit a water source and caused contamination.

The Conservation Council of WA says fracking has the potential to cause permanent damage to WA’s environment, ecosystems and natural and cultural heritage.

We believe there should be no fracking on our members’ Country without our consent. KRED are currently in the process of assembling an expert panel to offer independent advice on Buru’s suggested environmental modeling. While there is currently no fracking on our members’ Country, it is likely there will be in the future, and the data that Buru collects from these first tests at Yulleroo and Valhalla will form the baseline data for all other fracking experiments. Culturally, our Dreamtime stories connect underground water from Jaru right through to the west Kimberley coast. A large part of the west Kimberley is also on the National Heritage List, for its ‘rich and dynamic Aboriginal culture’, its ‘biological richness’, and its ‘geological and fossil evidence of Australia’s evolutionary history’. We want to ensure we have in place the most rigorous environmental assessment possible so our Country is protected. We act on the direction of our members: the Traditional Owners in the Kimberley.