In a significant departure from established industry practice, the company investigating the development of oil shale resources near Proserpine in the Whitsunday region has announced it will establish an independent Community Liaison Committee in August with the first workshops starting next week.
The Committee will be a forum through which local businesses, community and industry groups, and ordinary citizens can make known their views about the development of the oil shale resources.
Workshops will be held initially in Proserpine and Airlie Beach with workshops subsequently planned for Mackay and Bowen.
CEO of QER (Queensland Energy Resources) Pearce Bowman said the company was establishing the Committee much earlier than is normal and far in advance of when it would be required by Government to establish such a committee.
“I am keen to get community members involved as early as possible as the company continues its investigations into the potential development of the McFarlane oil shale deposit 15 kms south of Proserpine,” Bowman said.
Bowman said QER was committed to a transparent and genuine process of two-way information exchange at a series of community workshops to be held over the coming days and weeks that will lead to the establishment of the Committee.
“We will be asking people attending those workshops to express their views and highlight those aspects of the possible development in respect of which they want more information and answers,” Bowman said.
“We will also be asking them to provide direct input into the role, structure and composition of the Community Liaison Committee to be established.
“The Committee will have an independent chair and it will be run by the people of the region for the people of the region.
“My view is that by understanding how the community weighs up and responds to the opportunities and difficulties presented by a venture of such national importance, the company can address the issues sensibly and with due concern for all stakeholders, and ultimately better decisions will be made for the long-term benefit and future of the region.
According to Bowman, the Committee will have a genuine role in helping to develop aspects of the project if it goes ahead.
“Together with the company, the people of the region will be establishing a process for consultation — we will trust in the process and trust in the people, he said.
“In our current pre-feasibility phase, we are conducting a range of background monitoring activities and commissioning social, economic and environmental research before we make any decision to proceed further with a possible Environmental Impact Statement.
“Although we are still in the very early stages of a complex and lengthy process of assessment, I strongly believe our early investigations must also include seeking out the views of our local stakeholders.
“We have developed these community workshops and invited groups such as the landowners, business, tourist and agricultural industry to start to understand what the community members think and feel about a number of matters relating to the potential mining of the shale deposits.”
Bowman said the workshops would be a genuine opportunity for attendees to get the facts about QER.
“I am sure people will be keen to learn more about what we are really doing and what we really are contemplating for the future,” he said.
“We are still relatively unknown to the community and we are concerned there is some factually incorrect information being produced about QER and oil shale projects.
“It is very important for QER to be a responsible corporate member of the community and no decision will be made to develop the shale oil deposit until all the correct processes have been followed.
“That said, we believe that future development of the McFarlane resource would bring thousands of much needed jobs and investment to the Whitsunday region and will further underpin a viable local resort and tourism industry, an industry that is currently suffering at the hands of current high oil prices and a high Australian dollar.”
Director Corporate Affairs
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