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Outback Queensland council welcomes news of new Eromanga oil and gas exploration permits

A decision to grant a four-year prospecting licence to an energy company in outback Queensland has been condemned by environmentalists but applauded by the local mayor. 

The Queensland government gave the green light to Pure Energy earlier this month, eight years after the company lodged its application for an Authority to Prospect covering a 1,000 square kilometre area north of Eromanga in the state's south west.

Ellie Smith from Lock The Gate said the government promised to protect the same land that was now included in the Pure Energy permit.

"We're deeply concerned about the timing of this announcement," Ms Smith said.

"This is a time when new exploration in the Lake Eyre Basin should be absolutely off the table.

"It's very concerning that the Palaszczuk government can't just say no, put a line in the sand, and put in place proper protection."

Ms Smith said the approval proved the government had backflipped on previous election promises to strengthen protections for the rivers and floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin.

"It just beggars belief why the Palaszczuk government is approving new exploration in an area where they've been saying they'll protect for almost a decade," she said.

Mayor 'excited'

At Eromanga, the resources industry has been well developed for decades.

For the mayor of Quilpie Shire, Stuart Mackenzie, news of the new prospecting permit was welcome.

"The Cooper Basin's been explored for oil and gas for nearly 60 years," Mr Mackenzie said.

"We're excited to see development is still happening and the expansion of the gas and oil industry is continuing."

More approvals needed

A spokesperson for Queensland's Department of Resources said Pure Energy could only explore in the areas within its permit and could not produce petroleum or gas without further approvals.

"The holder will also need to gain approval under the Regional Planning Interests Act before they can undertake any on-ground exploration activities," the spokesperson said in a statement.

"Any resources project must stack up environmentally, socially, and financially and are assessed against strict criteria."

The statement also confirmed the company had been granted environmental authority from the Department of Environment and Science.

'Huge step backwards'

The government's decision to grant Pure Energy's prospecting licence follows Origin Energy's decision in September to back out of its leases in the Cooper and Eromanga Basins.

Ms Smith said the latest approval did not reflect the current state of the industry.

"It's a huge step backwards," she said.

"When Origin pulled out it was a clear indication that one of the major oil and gas players was indicating that new exploration for shale, tight gas, and unconventional gas was not part of their future plans."

But Mr Mackenzie said it was a promising sign the government was continuing to invest in the region.

"It makes much more sense to be continuing to explore in this area," he said.

"All the infrastructure is already in place, you don't have to go and build massive new pipelines … it's already here."

Pure Energy has been contacted for comment.

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