Inner-west residents challenge coal seam gas mining


Local residents made clear their opposition to plans for coal seam gas (CSG) drilling in Sydney’s inner-west at a heated public forum held in Leichhardt on Monday 1 August.

Dart Energy told the crowd that it intention to drill was no longer immediate, but that exploratory drilling at the site could commence from mid-2012.

Dart Energy CEO Robbert de Weijer said that while there was no current intention to use the controversial gas extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing at the St Peters site, it could not be ruled out. The method may be used if “deemed acceptable by authorities and after seeking community consultation,” he said.

Dart currently hold an exploration licence that covers not only St Peters but most of the Sydney metropolitan area. The licence is set to expire in October however the company told Leichhardt Mayor Rochelle Porteous that they intend to seek renewal.

Porteous told the forum that Leichhardt Council had recently voted unanimously against coal seam gas drilling in the area, “You’d think it’s a no-brainer: you don’t mine methane gas in densely populated urban areas nearby schools, parks, local streets, and people’s homes.”

However Dart is continuing to seek out “large industrial areas” in Sydney for further potential coal seam gas exploration.

Gas should be part of the state’s low carbon future, de Weijer said.

“The total amount of gas potentially in our licence area in NSW is 19 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of prospective resource.

“Just to give you a little bit of feeling as to how much that is, 1Tcf is enough energy for a city of 1 million people for 20 years.

“That’s a huge amount of gas to provide to the people of NSW and Queensland,” he said.

However many remain unconvinced. Dr Helen Redmond from Doctors for the Environment explained that coal seam gas mining has the capacity to impact not only on the environment but also on people’s health.

“There are health impacts associated with CSG that are both direct and indirect and they are multiple. Direct impacts stem from process and chemicals from fracking,” she said.

Both waste water from the drilling process as well as air contamination are potential issues, Redmond said.

“The water is not just salty, it has a lot of chemicals including Volatile Organic Compounds, BTEX, which is naturally occurring, heavy metals, and radioactive compounds.

“Methane gas leakage is common, symptoms can include tiredness, headaches, dizziness, and in enclosed environments can cause asphyxiation.”

The meeting was organised by the NSW Greens, and Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said that investment in coal seam gas would be at the expense of renewables.

“Just as the CSG deals are worth millions, so is the infrastructure, so that capital won’t go into investment in baseload solar thermal, or wind, or innovation.”

Buckingham will introduce a bill into the NSW parliament calling for a ban on CSG mining in Sydney metropolitan area, a 12 month moratorium on the CSG industry in NSW, and a full independent inquiry into the economic, social and environment impacts of CSG mining.