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Fracking FIFO must end in NT during COVID-19 crisis

Protect Country Alliance is urging all fracking companies to immediately halt fly-in-fly-out operations in the NT as the COVID-19 health crisis intensifies.

The Alliance notes Origin Energy has today announced a “pause” in work at its Kyalla Well, with 31 of its 45 employees on site now due to depart the Territory.

Protect Country Alliance spokesperson Lauren Mellor said this pause needed to include all Origin subcontractors from overseas and interstate. She said the Alliance also remained concerned about protocols for the workers who would remain on site.

“We remain concerned about the health of workers on site, as well as the health of Traditional Owners living in remote communities. Origin have clearly stated their intention to keep staff in the area,” she said.

"Community leaders from across the country have today raised concerns about the FIFO operations model of mining, oil, and gas companies, and the health risks it may pose to workers and communities.

"Protect Country Alliance shares those concerns. Thirty-one of Origin's 45 Kyalla Well workers are from interstate, and will be leaving the Territory soon.

"With many states having closed their borders already, this is an example of how continuing FIFO operations are inconsistent with public health measures being taken to combat COVID-19."

Ms Mellor said all other gas companies with plans to drill and frack should also halt FIFO operations in light of the COVID-19 crisis. Companies with NT gas exploration plans for 2020 include Empire Energy, Santos, Imperial Oil and Gas, Pangea and Hancock Prospecting.

“Local communities are also seeking assurances that unnecessary meetings to force the fracking implementation process are also put on hold during this dangerous time for Elders and remote communities,” she said.

Ray Dixon, a Mudburra man and Native Title holder for the site where Origin is drilling its Kyalla well welcomed the news from Origin that they would be removing their interstate FIFO staff.

“The announcement today comes as a welcome relief to our communities and Native Title holders,” he said.

“We never wanted fracking in the region, and we remain concerned about the damage it can do to our land, water and communities. We have been very clear to the NT Government, the Health Department and the Northern Land Council that we opposed giving special exemptions to fracking companies to continue operations that put us at risk of spreading the Coronavirus.

“It is good to see Origin will stop fracking plans at this time, but we are still to see a full guarantee that all subcontractors will be removed from site, and works stopped to protect our most vulnerable people.”

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