1.B. The territory in question
1.B.1. Presentation of the territory
Five territory scales have been considered (see the description of the scales in the thesis – P.V. p.402 and 406, Annex Publications-PV):
- The sub-continental scale (8.2 km2, radius = 1,600 kms)
- The supra-regional scale (512 000 km2, radius = 400 kms)
- The regional scale of livable countries (32 000 km2, radius = 100 kms)
- The local scale of approximately 2000 km2 (2000 km2, radius = 25 kms)
- The scale of the village, the city, the municipality, (125 km2, radius = 6.3 kms)
The convivial region has a reference scale of 32,000 km2. Nyikina Country cover an area of 26,000 km2 – that is, a day’s walk or 60-minute ride from the center, with a radius of less than 100 km. The radius of 25 kms is the most frequent minimum size of the cattle stations in the Kimberley region.
Figure 1: The study area (the Kimberley and the Canning Basin) across northern and Territories of Australia. Source NASY, CSIRO, 2009
Figure 2: The New Frontier of ‘Development’: the Conquest of Northern Australia. In fact, it is the new frontier of Western colonization. Aboriginal populations are trying to move towards effective sustainable development, in order to move from the rhetoric to reality. Ground Map: NASY CSIRO
This scale is important for two reasons: it has attracted particular attention from the Federal Government as far as the development of Australia is concerned, as we shall see in the NASY and NAWFA 2009 studies (2% of the 20 million Australian population). It has geographical and human coherence (Aboriginal and also Asian population from 50 to 80% depending on the region)
In these regions, the water is both temporally and geographically rare (NAWFA 2012, p.16):
The Tropical Rivers region (TR) includes 55 river basins flowing into the Timor Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria (in green and orange in figure 1). Spreading over an area of more than
1.3 million km2, this region includes all the watersheds of the Kimberley region in the west to the east coast of Cape York, including the lands south of Broome, in Western Australia (WA) through the Northern Territory (NT) to south of Innisfail in Queensland (QLD). The area extends inland south of Fitzroy Crossing, Daly Waters, Mount Isa and Hughenden.
The region is “generally data poor” (NASY, p.65)
The region includes some of the largest river systems in Australia such as – depending on the size of the area – the Flinders, Roper, Victoria and Fitzroy rivers and – depending on the volume – the Nicholson and Mitchell Rivers (NGIS Australia, 2004). These Northern rivers and groundwater systems make up 70% of the fresh water in Australia resources (Land and Water in Australia, 2005), and it is in these areas that the majority (65%) of runoff waters occurs (Chartres and Williams, 2006, Australian State Environment Committee, 2006). In comparison, the southern parts of the Australia receive only 6.1% of the total runoff waters of the country (Chartres and Williams, 2006).
From these figures, it appears that the North is ‘rich’ in water resources, but these aggregated statistics tend to hide the fact that there is very little perennial water in this area.
Figure 3: Watersheds of Northern Australia. The Post-doctoral report focuses on watershed No. 801 (Broome) and 802 (Fitzroy River)
Australian river system’s flow regimes are among the most variable in the world (Puckridge et al. 1998, McMahon, 1992). In northern Australia most of this extreme variability is due to the fact that many regions receive no rain at all for 6-9 months each year during the dry winter. Few northern rivers flow all year round, and most are just dry beds for long periods of time, such as. Sandy Creek, for instance. Frequent flooding occurs, sometimes major flooding (Kennard et al., 2010), mostly during the monsoonal ‘wet season’. Where perennial streams exist, they are often fed by groundwater from aquifers. Such is the case with the Daly (NT), Gregory (QLD) and Jardine Rivers (QLD) (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), 2009).
Obviously, the temporal and geographical water scarcity (Bennett, 2005, p.1) has influenced the European settlers (Jackson et al., 2008): despite the fact that the TR region covers about 15% percent of the Australian mainland, it is populated by less than 2% of the Australian population. Indeed, in 2006, the Australian Bureau of statistics (ABS) recorded in its census that only 310,000 people (approximately) have had their habitual place of residence in the TR region at the time (Carson et al. 2009)
The watershed of the Fitzroy River (Mardoowarra in the indigenous Nyikina language) covers 98,000 km2, which is comparable to the watershed basin of the French Rhone River or half of the French watershed basin of the Rhine River (or even 3 times that of the Meuse in France).
Figure 4 : Fitzroy River Catchment (Mardoowarra in Nyikina Language). Source : NASY 2009
All of the studies emphasize the strong link between the groundwater of the Canning Basin as a whole and the alluvial groundwater of the Fitzroy River, according to mechanisms about which we do not know much. A tentative schematization has nevertheless been drawn, see the following two figures.
Although these mechanisms have been identified, they have not been sufficiently studied scientifically. There is therefore a need for a study of the whole of Fitzroy River Valley and the Super Canning Basin.
Studies done by universities raise substantive issues such as Peter Cook’s study about underground waters in the Fitzroy Valley, which highlighted the links between underground water and surface water, and advised that additional studies should be carried out before implementing any industrial or mining investment in the region. (see Annex Fitzroy).
Figure 5: River-groundwater interactions of the Fitzroy River during the dry and wet seasons. Source: NASY, 2009, page 56/80
1.B.2. Current mining activity
Buru Energy is the key economic entity to whom the development of shale gas on those 550,000 km2 has been entrusted (http://www.buruenergy.com/ ). Here is their vision for the next 10 years:
Figure 6: Buru Energy Vision, Source : (http://www.buruenergy.com).
The 10 year vision was presented in Brisbane at the 49th ISOCARP. It is summarized in the following pictures:
Figure 7: Source: Environs Kimberley, Broome
Figure 8: Buru Energy Vision, Source: (http://www.buruenergy.com).
Current projects in 2015 are shown on the map below, from Buru’s Exploitation Report (December 2014):
Figure 9 & 10: Buru Energy Vision, Source: (http://www.buruenergy.com).
Figure 11: Buru Energy Licenses, Source: (http://www.buruenergy.com).