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Stop US gas exploration in the Australian desert!

Written by: Nick G. on 10 November 2021


The US imperialist fossil fuel company Tri-Star has been exploring for coal seam gas and oil in the Munga Thirri/Simpson Desert.

The company is based in Houston and has its Australian office in Brisbane. It boasts on its website that it has a “diverse oil, gas and minerals portfolio across Australia and across the world”. It has four leases to do seismic testing in the desert for coal seam gas (CSG). The leases are valid until 2025.

The Munga-Thirri / Simpson Desert sits within the Lake Eyre Basin, alongside Queensland Channel Country and Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, which is on the Important Wetlands in Australia list and an Important Bird Area (IBA). It’s one of the last great desert wilderness areas left in the world, and sits on top of the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest inland freshwater drainage areas in the world. The desert encompasses an area more than twice the size of Tasmania.

The Munga-Thirri / Simpson Desert is rich in First Nations history, spanning many thousands of years. The South Australian section is the traditional lands of the Wangkangurru/Yarluyandi people. Other groups include Aranda and Arrente, who all maintain a strong connection with Country.

Their stories are interconnected with the landscape, such as stories of mikiri (or freshwater soaks) in the claypans, swamps and small salt lakes that enabled the traditional owners to travel through the country using these for secondary sources of food and water. Rock carvings and places of cultural significance occur throughout the desert region.

The Wilderness Society was able to push back the first two fossil fuel companies that had bought the original leases. They made it clear the community would not stand for mining in one of the most intact desert ecosystems the world has left.

Tri-Star’s Munga-Thirri Simpson Basin Project is located approximately 840km north of Adelaide on the South Australia, Northern Territory border. Numerous exploration campaigns have been completed in the area since the early 1960s targeting conventional opportunities within the Poolowanna and Peera Peera Formations. The Poolowanna 1 well-flowed oil to surface on test as well as a small amount of condensate confirming the presence of multiple petroleum systems. Tri-Star is still currently reviewing the acreage to determine its exploration plans.

Following protests by the Wilderness Society, the Friends of the Simpson Desert and others, Tri-Star granted a temporary suspension of their licences from 5 June 2021 to 4 June 2022. However, it currently still has plans to seek approval for exploration activity. The South Australian government announced its proposal to create the Munga-Thirri / Simpson Desert National Park, the largest national park in Australia, in May 2021. However, the park will be jointly proclaimed for conservation and mining, which the Wilderness Society’s Peter Owen calls a “tragic oxymoron”.

Owen, who was instrumental in organising the successful broad community opposition to oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight, says that the exploration phase in a desert environment “can be even more destructive” than the production stage.

“To find gas, companies often bulldoze grid patterns across massive areas. 

“How do you bulldoze the Simpson’s sand dunes without messing up its delicate ecology? It could fundamentally change the flow of water that brings wetlands like Eyre to life.”

If Tristar proceeds to do seismic testing in the desert for coal seam gas (CSG), and if they find gas, they will then extract the gas by fracking, a process that has known significant environmental consequences. The other concern is a proposal to build a 900km (approximately) pipeline across the desert to transport gas to a facility for processing and distribution to market.

The answer to reducing coal industry emissions is not, as Scummo would have us believe, to switch to gas.  

And certainly not at the risk of doing damage to the Munga Thirri/Simpson Desert.

Capitalism’s destructive war on the environment must be defeated. 

No to Tri-Star’s destructive plans. 

(Information in this article has come from the websites of the Wilderness Society, the Friends of the Simpson Desert, and Tri-Star.)



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