Australia’s oil industry faces a discord due to submerged heritage

Ancient artifacts were discovered on Australia’s west coast seabed, opening up new barriers for resource companies to protect the heritage of the indigenous people and the oil industry.

Hundreds of stone tools were discovered by archaeologists in July in Western Australia, off the Dampier Archipelago. The new findings suggest that indigenous people lived in that particular area for as long as 7,000 years.

Studies suggest that the Archipelago was once dry, the period coinciding with the timeline of the tools.

Two sites have been identified as the primary settlement areas by the archaeologists. However, the locations of imperative value are just three miles east of the regions, identified where Woodside Petroleum, Australia’s best gas producer, plans to build a brand new pipeline.

The pipeline is to connect the Burrup Peninsula’s gas plant, Pluto, to the gas field of Scarborough.

The company is currently in talks with the archeologists involved in the discovery and Murujuga Aboriginal Corp (MAC), the owners of the land on which the pipeline is to be built.

The MAC raised concerns over the loss of valuable submerged heritage regardless of whether it has been discovered yet or not. The Chief Executive of MAC, Peter Jeffries, stated that a thorough investigation is required before any definitive conclusion is reached.

The company is extremely understanding of the process and recognizes the potential of the area while ensuring that extensive surveys onshore and offshore.

Woodside’s sentiments

Woodside’s chief executive Peter Coleman, during a conversation with Reuters, stated that it was the first time in Australia that Submerged Heritage is considered in building a pipeline on the shore of Scarborough.

Other measures are also being taken by the company to help smooth the process.

MAC’s development plan

MAC is in talks with Woodside Petroleum to develop a heritage management plan as well as a soil disposal management plan for Scarborough, to help the development and discovery process.

The Australian law only protects sunken airships and shipwrecks as cultural heritage underwater. However, after much probing, the late ’90s brought about an amendment, and ever since, the artifacts can also be treated as indigenous, only upon the approval of any recognized minister. The step is crucial and too cumbersome as per the archaeologists of MAC.

The oil industry takes underwater heritage very seriously and believes that the ocean floor surrounding Australia is vast and full of knowledge, which must be explored at all costs.

Image courtesy of mvdesign/Shutterstock

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