Vast natural-gas reserves off the West Australian coastline have ignited a battle over land use in a remote and pristine part of the Kimberley.

Story By Ian Glover

Waterfalls cascading into the sea over mineral and time-stained rock outcrops, turquoise waters and white sands contrasting vividly with spectacular red cliffs – this is the Kimberley coast … for now. A prolonged, bitterly fought battle is raging in the West: on one side, government and mining interests, on the other, conservationists, residents, tour operators and concerned members of the public. It’s a battle that neither side will win easily or without repercussions. The sparks that ignited the battle are the vast natural-gas reserves of the Browse Basin, 400 kilometres to the north-west of the coast. A number of mining giants – primarily Woodside and the Japanese company Inpex – want to exploit these massive deposits and the most cost-effective way to refine the gas into Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is by setting up a plant on virgin north-west Western Australia shoreline; an area regarded by many as one of the last untouched wilderness regions of the world. Save The Kimberley is an organisation of individuals from all over Australia; people concerned about the possible long-term effects if this project (and other similar developments) goes ahead. Spokesman Peter Tucker – a remote-area fishing-camp operator – points out that it’s an area largely unexplored, particularly in a scientific sense. “There’s been very little investigation of the flora or fauna – who knows what might be out there?” he says.

This story excerpt is from Issue #63

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2009