The Northern Territory Government has put out new oil and gas exploration licences which cover large amounts of Aboriginal land.

Minister for Mines and Energy David Tollner said resources companies made a deal with the Northern Land Council to secure its agreement for two exploration permits in the McArthur Basin.

“Many Indigenous communities are already benefiting from mining on their land and now the oil and gas industry is set to further strengthen local economies,” Mr Tollner said.

“This demonstrates that traditional owners and the resources industry can both win when they work together.”

Exploration Permit 187 has been granted to Imperial Oil and Gas and Exploration Permit 154 has been jointly granted to Minerals Australia and Jacaranda Minerals.

But the news that a number of gas companies will drill exploratory wells on their land came as a shock to many in the outback Aboriginal communities.

Jilkminggan residents have told ABC reporters that they knew little about coal seam gas fracking, and were not informed about the practice or its risks at any consultations with the Land Council or oil and gas companies.

Senior traditional owner Shelagh Conway said she was never consulted.

“Not me, not me. They don't come and see me, the NLC,” she said at an anti-CSG meeting on the weekend.

“Because I tell them 'no'. They go to all the 'yes, yes' people, who say yes to anything.”

NLC chairman Joe Morrison said said they asked all relevant parties.

“Hundreds of traditional owners were consulted, the majority of which had consented to exploration proceeding,” he said.

Morrison said the deal included the many exclusion zones in the final licence areas, which were agreed to by traditional owners.

“That tells me that traditional owners were aware and had been thinking about the impacts,” he said.

But conservationists remain sceptical.

“The NT Government is boasting about trading the long-term viability of communities, pastoral stations and the environment for some very short-term profits from an industry already suffering a major economic downturn in the eastern states, and a lifetime of fracking legacy costs including leaky well failures, water and air contamination, and industrialisation of productive pastoral land,” said Lauren Mellor of the Frack-Free Alliance NT.

“NT Petroleum Law is the weakest in Australia, and landholders have few rights to stop access to unwanted invasive exploration and mining on their land.

“The regulators NT EPA and NT DME are unprepared and under-resourced to manage the risk posed by the thousands of wells planned by shale gas companies in the NT.”