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Farmers urge government to act after Carbon Minerals targets Liverpool Plains for new CSG drilling in zombie licenses

Gas company and Santos joint venture partner Carbon Minerals is progressing plans to raise its zombie petroleum licenses from the dead on the Liverpool Plains, a national food bowl, despite calls by State Government MPs for expired tenements to be permanently slain.

Farmers have renewed their calls for the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government to immediately extinguish the licenses in response to a Carbon Minerals ASX statement last month indicating it had submitted environmental studies for exploratory seismic surveys and gas drilling to the Planning Department.

The statement also indicated the company could conduct “further exploration in relation to proposed seismic testing and exploratory drilling… in advance of renewed licenses for exploration in (zombie) Petroleum Exploration Licence Areas 1 and 12.” 

The statement comes amid a flurry of activity following the IPC’s decision to greenlight the Santos Narrabri gasfield, with other companies that hold zombie petroleum licenses across the north west of NSW now attempting to raise their tenements from the dead. 

Recently, the NSW Planning Department confirmed it had received an application to bring PEL456, which is located in the Upper Hunter and is majority held by multinational private company Kerogen investments, back to life. Efforts are also being made by Comet Ridge, which with Santos jointly owns zombie licences PEL 6, PEL 427, and PEL 428, to bring two of those PELs back to life.

The applications to reinstate the licenses are at odds with comments by NSW Agricultural Minister Adam Marshall and Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson, who have told media they support the permanent removal of at least some of the zombie licenses. Independent MP Justin Field, meanwhile, has legislation before the NSW Upper House to extinguish the PELs.

Carbon Minerals’ ASX statement was also issued less than a week after Liverpool Plains Shire councillors voted unanimously to oppose coal seam gas and request expired Petroleum Exploration Licences 1,12 and 452, which cover the area, be extinguished.

“The zombie tenements held jointly by Carbon Minerals and Santos cover some of the best agricultural country in the nation - the Liverpool Plains,” said Mullaley farmer Margeret Fleck, whose property is covered by PEL 12.

“Extremely productive farming country across much of north west NSW must not be threatened by an expanded coal seam gas industry.

“It has now been about two years since the National Party passed a motion at its state conference in favour of permanently extinguishing these petroleum licences, and despite similar calls from his own MPs, Nationals leader John Barilaro has done nothing.

“Local MP Kevin Anderson needs to get his act together and demand that Barilaro pull his finger out, listen to farmers in the north west, and immediately extinguish these licenses so we who produce the food and fibre for the country can have some certainty.”

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