Apex Energy, in a joint venture with Ormil Energy (later Magnum Gas and Power), obtained a licence in 2011 to explore for coal seam gas (CSG) in the Illawarra, south of Sydney.
Almost immediately a group of concerned locals came together to stop the project — and Stop CSG Illawarra was formed.
Five years later, as Apex Energy exits the scene, rather anti-climactically, it is apparent the community has won and the environment and greater Sydney's drinking water are safe from this threat.
Apex accepted $212,000 from the state government for each of its licences and said it would instead concentrate on opportunities in Botswana. The surrender of the licences was approved by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) on July 17.
But in a parting gesture, the EPA has made that approval conditional on Apex paying a $3000 fine for failing to complete its annual return — the documentation of any environmental damage, pollution incidents or licence breaches that happened in the past year.
The EPA has had to force Apex to complete its environmental responsibilities in the Illawarra. In November last year the EPA told Apex it would not approve the surrender of the licence until rehabilitation work had been completed at the drill site.
An EPA spokesperson said: “The EPA approved the licence surrender after appropriate rehabilitation works — including plug and abandon — had been carried out at the well site.”
The state government offered to buy back the licences in March last year, but Magnum chairperson Tim Fontaine described the price offered as a “joke”.
“This is purely political, not practical or scientific,” he said at the time. “And the offer price for the buyback is ridiculously low.”
But within a week the company had decided to accept the deal and move on.