Metgasco's gas drilling suspended by minister

Not wanted: Protest signs make the point at the proposed mine site in Lismore.Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Not wanted: Protest signs make the point at the proposed mine site in Lismore.Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Illawarra environment campaigners are hailing a new era in resource approvals in the wake of the state government suspending a coal seam gas licence in northern NSW.

NSW Resources and Energy Minister Anthony Roberts suspended Metgasco's licence near Lismore on Thursday after an audit found the miner had failed to undertake proper consultation with the community.

He also referred information about shareholdings and interests in Metgasco to the Independent Commission Against Corruption as it was revealed its largest shareholder had links with the family of disgraced former Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid and controversial businessman Nick Di Girolamo.

Peter Martin, convener of the Southern Highlands Coal Action Group, which is campaigning against Hume Coal's proposal for a mine at Sutton Forest, said it appeared a more thorough approach would be injected into the approval system.

But he said Mr Roberts and Planning Minister Pru Goward would need time to get "to the bottom of it".

"The system is rotten and they need to sort it - and it seems Mr Roberts has taken the bull by the horns," he said.

"I think issues like proper process are going to become increasingly important."

Mr Martin said the approvals system should be more thorough but had become "lazy", and reform would be "good for the state".

When announcing Metgasco's suspension, Mr Roberts said the Office of Coal Seam Gas would ensure all CSG explorers would have to show they were complying with their licence conditions.

"OCSG is conducting an ongoing audit of all Petroleum Exploration Licences across NSW and is focused on ensuring company compliance with title conditions," Mr Roberts said.

Stop CSG Illawarra spokeswoman Jess Moore said the Metgasco result showed opponents that it was possible to win battles against CSG proposals.

"We've got consecutive governments now who are embroiled in corruption scandals," she said.

"We've got companies involved in that corruption scandal involved in that [Metgasco] proposal. That makes it politically impossible for the government to continue to ignore the concerns of the community."

She said where CSG licences were found to be breached, the lease should be cancelled.


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