Peter Henderson, Metgasco CEO.
Peter Henderson, Metgasco CEO. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Metgasco to start exploratory drilling north of Grafton

THE CEO of Metgasco is excited by the prospect of drilling gas wells across the region.

However, both Labor and National Party politicians have flagged serious concerns with the industry's development.

Last week Metgasco signed a deal with gas mining company AJ Lucas to drill three exploration wells north of Grafton.

The wells will be on petroleum exploration licences (14 and 26) shown on the map at right.

Metgasco is yet to release the exact location of the wells.

"The NSW Government, through the renewal of our exploration licences and the approval of our production licence, is fully in support of the CSG industry," Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson said yesterday.

In May, Metgasco released from a study into the potential economic benefits of coal-seam gas in the Northern Rivers the following list of potential economic benefits:

  • $1.4 billion of direct expenditure over 20 years
  • $2.1 billion of total expenditure over 20 years
  • 400 full-time equivalent direct construction jobs
  • 270 direct operations jobs
  • 1000 total construction jobs
  • 950 total operations jobs

The company said other potential benefits include cheaper electricity and gas-top cooking.

A substantial effort was made to contact academics in the field of mining engineering to canvass their opinions on how safe or unsafe fracking techniques used in CSG are.

Repeatedly academic experts in the field said they believe the processes involved are safe but they were unwilling to involve themselves in what they said was an overblown debate.

"Who's going to stick their neck out on this?" said one professor at the University of Queensland.

"The one thing not in dispute locally is that we all want jobs and investment in our local economy," said Member for Page Janelle Saffin.

"The community is saying with regards to CSG mining, 'But at what cost?'"

Ms Saffin said the number of jobs the industry would provide remains a point of dispute.

"What is going to happen to agricultural land, which is primarily where the CSG mining companies want to mine?

"Jobs are great, but so too is our water, our food and our health."

National Party hopeful for the seat of Page, Kevin Hogan also voiced his concerns.

"Economic benefits while vitally important are meaningless unless we have guarantees local CSG operations are safe, particularly in relation to our water supplies," said Mr Hogan.

Former Labor candidate for Clarence Peter Ellem said: "I was warning a year ago that the Northern Rivers could not afford a coal-seam gas industry because of potentially devastating impacts on our rural communities, particularly for farmers, commercial and recreational fishermen and tourism.

"Nothing I have seen or heard has convinced me that CSG companies can guarantee their operations will be safe for local families or the environment."

The only local political figure who could not be contacted for comment was Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, who is part of the NSW Government that supports coal-seam gas mining.

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