Northern Territory faces legal challenge over approval of Tamboran drilling and fracking in Beetaloo basin

<span>Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

Activists have launched a legal challenge to the Northern Territory government’s decision to approve drilling and fracking by resources company Tamboran in the Beetaloo basin.

The Central Australian Frack Free Alliance (Caffa) is asking the NT supreme court to review the process that led to the approval of Tamboran’s environmental management plan, arguing the environment minister, Lauren Moss, failed to properly consider the environmental impacts of the project.

Related: Beetaloo Basin holds ‘Australia’s greatest emissions reduction opportunity’, inquiry hears

In particular, Caffa will argue the minister failed to fully consider the climate consequences of the project, including the climate effects of future production in the Beetaloo that the exploration may facilitate.

The approval allows Tamboran to drill and frack 12 exploratory wells 600km south of Darwin.

Caffa’s case is a test of the NT’s petroleum regulations which were reformed in 2016. The group, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, will argue those reforms provided for a wider assessment of the risks associated with gas or fracking activity.

By approving this exploration application, the minister is laying the grounds for potentially thousands of fracking wells to be drilled in the NT,” Caffa’s spokesperson, Hannah Ekin, said.

“Tamboran’s project would help facilitate the drilling of vast new gas fields across the heart of the territory. This would have a catastrophic impact on runaway climate change and affect the lives of everyone who resides here in the territory.”

David Morris, the chief executive of the Environmental Defenders Office, said the NT government had a “terrible track record of failing to regulate highly polluting industries”.

“In this instance, we’re arguing the minister failed to lawfully assess Tamboran’s environmental plan by not identifying and considering all the risks,” he said.

“The law places the responsibility on the minister to ensure all risks are identified and considered, we say she failed in that task.”

A NT government spokesperson said the government could not provide comment while the case was under way. Comment has been sought from Tamboran Resources.