Mining company Metgasco will face off against the state government in the NSW Supreme Court today in a last-ditch bid to lift the suspension of its drilling licence for Bentley, just outside Lismore.
The Office of Coal Seam Gas suspended the company’s licence on May 15, just days before police were expected to confront blockaders at the site.
The OCSG confirmed the suspension last week.
The suspension followed months of protest action at the Bentley site, with numbers swelling to thousands at times.
It also resulted in Metgasco’s share price dropping almost by half to $0.048.
As well, Tweed, Byron, Ballina and Lismore councils have written to the premier requesting that the region be declared gas-field free.
Richmond Valley Council, which is where Metgasco’s Bentley site sits, has banned fracking and will conduct a review of its position on the gas industry.
Despite the opposition, Metgasco’s chief executive Peter Henderson said the company ‘strongly believed’ that it had complied with the OCSG guidelines on community consultation.
‘The company’s proposed consultation program was specified in its drilling REF (environmental) application lodged in March 2013 and approved by the OCSG in February 2014,’ he said in a statement.
‘The OCSG did not communicate any concerns about community consultation until a few days before the drilling rig was to be mobilised.’
‘We are also concerned that the justification for the suspension keeps changing.
‘The most recent decision by the OCSG cites new and different reasons to the original 14 May letter.
‘The prime reasons for the suspension decision appear to have little to do with Metgasco’s efforts to consult in good faith with the local community, but rather a concern about protests by activists who demonstrably have no interest in consultation.’
Activists opposed to gas mining in the region have vowed to return to the Bentley site in large numbers if the suspension is lifted.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers and Bentley landholders commended the NSW government for its decision to uphold the suspension.