NT cattle stations lessees Rallen Australia said it obtained a temporary halt on road works by fracking company Tamboran Resources Limited on its land, until its stay application can be heard by the NT Supreme Court heard on July 15, but the miner later said the interim stop work had been lifted and misconceived as the company did have any immediate intention to undertake works on that track.
Tanumbirini lessee and Rallen Australia director Luciana Ravazzotti said Tamboran’s subsidiary, Sweetpea Petroleum, was repurposing a seismic line into an 18 metre wide access track, bisecting one of Rallen’s larger breeding paddocks.
“It is giving us a temporary reprieve from the most concerning activities, and time to resolve some serious concerns about Sweetpea’s work prior to the outcome of the Supreme Court appeal, without further damage being done,” she said.
“Construction will also put cattle at risk of vehicle injury as they wander across the road, with trucks and roadtrains unable to suddenly stop.
“Our experience of Sweetpea since they began construction is that they’re determined to push on, even in the face of the objections we have raised with them and our concern about the damage they are causing.
“The cattle industry in the Territory is the backbone of the economy. If this is what we are seeing at the exploration stage, we can’t imagine how bad things might get as companies head towards full production”.
Tanumbirini is a 500,100ha cattle station situated about 700km southeast of Darwin near Daly Waters.
Ms Ravazzotti said Sweetpea Petroleum had confirmed it did not intend to commence its proposed fracking road works on the station, and Rallen required at least 14 days notice of any intention to do so.
Tamboran Resources Limited managing director and chief executive officer Joel riddle said the injunction brought by Rallen Australia was misconceived as Tamboran is yet to issue a formal notice to Rallen regarding the construction of a western access Ttack.
“Nor did Tamboran have any present intention to undertake works on that track,” he said, “As a result, Rallen conceded that the injunction orders be lifted with immediate effect.
““Rallen’s media statement continues to mislead the Australian public as to Tamboran’s business. This shows the lengths the foreign owned pastoral leaseholder is undertaking to deny jobs and royalties to Territorians and affordable gas to Australian households and businesses at a
time when cost of living pressures are impacting the economy.
“Pastoral leaseholders and exploration companies have a long history of working alongside each other across Australia and we remain committed to conducting our activities in accordance with the approved work program.”
Ms Ravazzotti said if the stay was granted it would require Sweetpea Petroleum to stop all work on Tanumbirini to protect Rallen’s business from what she said was “substantial interference and damage” until an appeal judgment is handed down.
She said that following a failure to reach agreement over Sweetpea’s bid to access neighbouring cattle stations, Tanumbrini and Beetaloo, the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal determined an “access agreement” for Tanumbirini on May 4 but Rallen Australia had eight grounds of appeal.
“The key grounds included the access agreement as determined by the NTCAT imposes lesser standards on Sweetpea than the standard minimum protections required under NT law, and the decision failed to balance the interests of the parties by allowing an open scope of activities for an indefinite period of time,” she said
The ABC reported the access agreement allowed Sweetpea to cut a station fence to move machinery onto two paddocks, despite station owners not wanting them to.
The pastoral company’s layers appealed the decision, which allowed fracking exploration to go ahead, in a two day hearing which began on June 20.
In a June 20 statement Tamboran Resources Limited managing director and chief executive officer Joel Riddle said his company had been working within the approved terms of the access agreement, and with all stakeholders, including pastoral leaseholders, and traditional owners through the Northern Land Council.
“Pastoral lease and exploration lease holders are granted overlapping tenures by the Northern Territory. These lease holders have come to agreements across the Northern Territory and Australia successfully over many decades to manage their dual rights over public land and will continue to do so to the mutual benefit of industry, traditional owners and the environment,” he said.
“Contrary to what has been reported in the media, Rallen, as a pastoral lease holder, have no right to attempt to block lawful exploration activities approved under our land access Agreement, however, we respect the rights of Rallen, and its foreign owners, to run cattle on its pastoral lease in accordance with the specific rights afforded to it under NT law.
“Rallen’s purchase of pastoral leases took place after the gas moratorium in the Northern Territory was lifted, knowing full well of the Northern Territory Government’s desire to develop the Beetaloo Basin, which is projected to deliver thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in royalties to the benefit of Territorians.
“It should be deeply concerning for all Australians that a foreign entity can attempt to use its control over pastoral assets to restrict supply of new gas into the market, given the current energy crisis and desperate need for more gas.
“Tamboran notes and respects the ongoing appeal in the Northern Territory Supreme Court and will refrain from commenting further throughout proceedings.”
Rallen lawyers told the ABC said the legal case would a test of land access laws passed in 2020, which were about balancing the needs of pastoral leaseholders and miners, and gave NTAC power to impose access arrangements.
“We have some serious concerns about the adequacy of the agreement and so the appeal to this court is testing the new process,” lawyer Kathy Merrick told the ABC.
“The petroleum industries argue that they have entitlements, but their entitlements are to minerals under the earth and my client’s entitlements are to operate a business without interruption on the surface.
“To have an explorer argue that cutting the surface of the land up to get access to the assets below doesn’t result in the interference is something that we struggle with.”