THE licence to drill for coal seam gas (CSG) in the Shoalhaven also covers the Southern Highlands, an area well versed in fighting the mining process.
Convenor of the Southern Highlands Coal Action Group Peter Martin said stopping coal seam gas mining in the Shoalhaven would be up to the community.
A coal seam gas venture that includes the Shoalhaven and part of the Southern Highlands has been granted an exploration licence for six years.
The licence covers a large area of Shoalhaven from Sussex Inlet, Kangaroo Valley, Bolong Flats and Terara.
The state government renewed the lapsed gas exploration licence PEL 469 held by Leichhardt Resources. Planet Gas will be the operator.
The Coal Action Group has many concerns about the licence, claiming the two companies don’t have any money and haven’t done any of the work they said they would do under their original licence, which expired nearly 12 months ago.
“The government had plenty of reasons not to renew but still went ahead,” Mr Martin said.
“It doesn’t make any sense at all. What happens if something goes wrong? They don’t have the money to fix it.
“We have previously exposed the same companies for working without approval.
“When Leichhardt and Planet Gas attempted to undertake seismic testing before the last state election, we notified the state government and the operation was shut down by then Minister for Resources Tony Kelly.
“The Wingecarribee Shire Council refused them access to council roads where they were planning to do seismic tests.
“We found out that these companies will break the rules, it’s endemic in the industry because it’s self-regulated.
“Nobody is checking what they’re doing, despite the government’s claims, government departments don’t have the qualified people to keep an eye on them,” he said.
Since approving the licence the state government has been spruiking its coal seam gas water protection measures.
Mr Martin said the state government’s aquifer interference policy was quite good. However, it was still only a policy that could be accepted or rejected by the decision-makers.
“If it was properly employed in areas with significant ground water it would make it hard for these companies to get any approvals at all,” Mr Martin said.
“However, the thing about exploration drilling for CSG is that it’s not just running across the landscape drilling holes.
“You’ve got to dewater the area and basically simulate the production process.”
Mr Martin said the mining companies and the government didn’t mention the large numbers of trucks required to service areas involved in CSG or all the infrastructure on the ground that interferes with agricultural or business activity.
“You won’t hear anyone talking about the massive truck traffic on roads running chemicals and water for fracking if it’s needed, or removing the massive volumes of polluted water and salts that’s come out.
“When you put in a CSG field you industrialise the area.
“The wells which may only be 500 metres apart are connected with pipelines and there will be compressor stations, well heads, powerlines, roads and other infrastructure spread over the landscape.
“It is mind boggling,” he said.