New South Wales is poised to begin opening up the State to new gas exploration licences despite making little progress on putting clear restrictions into law to prevent exploration in parts of the state where mining is not appropriate.
Last week, the Government launched a Strategic Release Framework for Coal and Petroleum, which will reopen the state to new applications for coal seam gas exploration and harmonise the release processes for coal and gas exploration titles.
The new coal and gas exploration “strategic release framework” was supposed to build environmental and social constraints into coal and gas mining processes at the earliest phase, prior to exploration licences and leases being issued, to stop the years of conflict and agony rural communities suffer in their efforts to protect water resources, villages, farmland or important bushland from mining projects.
But Lock the Gate Alliance says that the Government has squibbed on setting hard constraints against coal seam gas anywhere but the Hunter Valley horse breeding and winegrowing lands, and that critical farmland and precious water resources in the rest of the State, including the Liverpool Plains, will now once again be under threat.
Lock the Gate NSW Coordinator, Georgina Woods said, “The Government has just spent over $3 million buying back coal seam gas exploration licences, but now they’re about to start releasing them again.
“With no hard constraints preventing licences being handed out in inappropriate areas, like Sydney’s drinking water catchment, the Northern Rivers, or important farmland, the Government could grant new exploration licences over areas where they just spent tax-payers money buying back licences. Has the whole exercise been an expensive waste of time?
Lock the Gate says it will make a submission strongly pushing for hard upfront constraints on where coal and gas mining should occur, to provide certainty for rural communities and industries.
“The conflict and decimation being visited on communities like Maules Creek, Bylong, Wybong and Breeza by mining could be prevented with up front constraints on mining, but this program does not deliver. We detect the sulphurous stench of the coal industry’s interference here.”
 Minister Anthony Roberts’ media release claims that 16 PELs were bought back at a cost of $212,500 each.