Web_xdigniteergasAN exploration licence for coal seam gas (CSG) and tight gas, covering from Bairnsdale through to Foster and up Turtons Creek has been renewed for another two years. It borders another similar licence (EL5337) by Mantle Mining that covers Mirboo North which is set to expire in April 2016. Ignite Energy Resources’ (IER) exploration licence 4416 (EL 4416) has been in place since 2001. It will now expire in April 2015.

The licence allows IER to continue to explore for mineral sands, brown coal and CSG. It was renewed in May this year and covers 3,800sqkm. IER’s subsidiary, Gippsland Gas will join with Esso Ventures that has a 10 per cent interest, to explore for CSG in the area. “The information gathered in this exploration phase will allow a better understanding of the resource and guide the development of a retention licence at a future stage,” an IER spokesperson said. “IER is investing heavily in the development of low emissions technologies and systems to transform surface lignite [brown coal] and biomass into high value clean products for domestic and export markets. “The outcome of these developments will impact future lignite development plans within EL 4416. “Subject to the results of these exploration and technology development activities, IER and its partners will prepare further plans for discussion with government and the community in due course.” A licence to develop gasfields and mines has not been approved.

Moratorium to be overturned
The promise of extensive community consultation is of little comfort to landholders in the region. They feel their concerns are likely to be “steamrolled” in pursuit of a “quick profit”. Larry Giddy, who is part of the Foster Community Association CSG Project Group, said the government, which was being pushed by big business, was “hell bent on digging it up and extracting gas.” There is currently a moratorium on CSG in Victoria. However, there is speculation it may be lifted soon after former Federal MP Peter Reith releases a report on CSG. Mr Reith is also the former Member for Flinders, the electorate current Environment Minister Greg Hunt now holds.  “I have no faith at all in Peter Reith’s upcoming reports,” Mr Giddy said, “especially when after he attended a session at Mirboo North, where there were a few hundred people, he went on to say there was no opposition to CSG in the area.”

Mr Giddy said there was deep mistrust in the community about the undue influence big business had in Mr Reith’s report, which is yet to be released. Speculation over Mr Reith’s report coincides with a gas industry campaign, which calls for CSG and unconventional gas fields to be developed to reduce future energy price increases and give certainty to industry, particularly manufacturing. The Age reported recently that Mr Reith’s report supports the gas industry’s assertions. “The gas campaigns are scare tactics; it’s the gas companies making a quick grab of what they can dig out of the ground for short term profits,” Mr Giddy said. “It’s not for the consumers – it’s for quick profit. “The amount of influence big business has sets a dangerous precedent, to the detriment of the people who live in these areas. “There could well be unintended consequences, not just with ground water contamination, but aquifers, and industry that relies on Corner Inlet, including fishing and tourism.

“We haven’t seen any concrete evidence that the government is doing anything to protect the environment from CSG – there’s no evidence they can control the effects of mining. “We’ve seen that the negatives of CSG far outweigh the positives. “We can ill afford those risks.” Adding to the communities’ concerns is Mr Hunt’s ruling to allow a number of New South Wales and Queensland CSG projects to proceed. Forty seven projects will be referred to further federal studies, one will proceed and he has “requested further information” on two other proposals. The ‘water trigger’ referral, implemented under the Gillard Government refers cases to be assessed at a federal level under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. “The Abbott Government is not afraid to get on with the job of making decisions to provide certainty for Australian industry and maintain our environmental standards,” Mr Hunt said.