Northern rivers anti-gas protesters say they will flock back to Bentley if mining company Metgasco is granted approval to recommence its operations.
Responding to news today that the Independent Commission Against Corruption would not be proceeding with an inquiry into the company, Lock the Gate northern rivers spokesman Ian Gaillard said the community was ready to rally again if and when needed.
‘People are of course worried and people remain with a wary eye on the government and Metgasco because it seems the government has an agenda,’ he told Echonetdaily.
Metgasco today announced it had been advised by the ICAC that the inquiry into the company would not be proceeding.
NSW energy minister Anthony Roberts had announced on May 15 that he had written to the ICAC, following receipt of information concerning shareholdings and interests in Metgasco Limited.
Metgasco claimed that the company’s name had been cleared but the suspension remains in place – for now.
‘That advice (from ICAC) makes it clear that there was no information in the referral to ICAC that was indicative of corrupt conduct,’ the company said in a statement.
Metgasco chairman Len Gill said the fact that the ICAC had dealt with the matter quickly was of great benefit, as the announcement of the referral had caused major damage to the company’s reputation.
The referral to the ICAC was announced at the same time that the NSW Office of Coal Seam Gas suspended Metgasco’s approval to drill the Rosella E01 gas exploration well at Bentley.
Mr Gill maintained that the company did not consider that the suspension was valid.
But the OCSG issued a statement today saying that the decision to suspend the licence still stands, despite additional material provided by the company with regards to its community consultation.
‘ The OCSG acknowledges that some sections of the community are opposed to the development of a gas industry for a variety reasons.
‘We do not expect licence holders such as Metgasco to be able to change their views (but they) should comply with guidelines and demonstrate an ability to effectively and genuinely engage with the community’.
The OCSG told Metgasco ‘that works could be recommenced under the activity approval once an acceptable community consultation plan is in place and the company demonstrates an ability to appropriately engage with the community, in compliance with relevant obligations under PEL 16.’
Metgasco has this week to respond.
Mr Gaillard, who was out at Bentley today cleaning away the remaining rubbish from the blockade site, said the community would be keeping a close watch on the developments.
‘We haven’t had any communication from Minister Roberts about the suspension of the licence and Metgasco apparently sent a 47-page document as to why they have fulfilled community consultation,’ he said.
‘But the community would say they’ve done a miserable job’.
‘Their idea of consultation is saying how they will go about something instead of listening to concerns when people were rightly worried.’
He urged anti-gas campaigners to keep a watchful eye on the situation.
‘We say if you intend to come back here we have a major force and the community will be back in large numbers.’
‘We call for the suspension of all petroleum exploration licences in the northern rivers. That’s what the community wants and we’ve been asking for that for some time.’