Cooper-Eromanga native title agreement a first

PETROLEUM explorers will be allowed to work on south-west Queensland land under native title claim after a first-ever agreement of its type in the state was finalised yesterday.

The Right to Negotiate agreement will release land in the Cooper-Eromanga Basin in which little exploration work has previously been conducted.

Some of the land made available was part of Santo’s former interests in the area, understands.

A joint venture of Perth’s Oilex, Victoria Oil Exploration and Oilex subsidiary, Seqoil Pty Ltd, signed the landmark agreement with traditional owners - the Boonthamurra, Maiawali Karuwali and Mithaka peoples - and the Queensland minister for natural resources and mines Stephen Robertson.

An area greater than 15,000 square kilometers in the Cooper-Eromanga Basin – covering the authority to prospect on ATP 794P - is now available for the joint venture to explore for petroleum with the cooperation of the traditional owners.

Oilex managing director Bruce McCarthy said the company would speed up exploration activity on the block, including drilling of the Barcoo Junction North-1 well on the Barcoo Junction Prospect, of which Oilex has an 88% interest.

Seismic reprocessing and remapping of the Moothandella structure on the Barcoo Block (Oilex 40%) would also be conducted with the other work before October, he said.

Native title lawyer Sean Bowden said the joint venture should be commended for its consistent and constructive approach to the talks that developed the agreement.

Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines native title special advisor, Geoff Dickie, said educational benefits for the local people and protection of their Aboriginal cultural heritage would be achieved as a result of the agreement.

“We expect a further 12 agreements will be reached in far south-west Queensland to provide benefits for both local Aboriginal groups and exploration companies,” he said.

It is understood Beach Petroleum, Strategic Resources and Liberty Petroleum are among the companies which could sign agreements within a month.

There is a backlog of applications for about 70 petroleum exploration tenements in Queensland.

The agreement is regarded as a template allowing processing of those applications.

Bowden said the agreement would establish a framework for how Aboriginal people’s rights and the petroleum industry interacted.

“They [Aboriginals] will maintain control over dealings concerning their cultural heritage.”

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