CHAIRMAN of the Manning Alliance, Peter Epov has welcomed the announcement that there will no longer be the threat of coal seam gas exploration for the people of the Manning Valley (see story below).
“We are delighted that Pangaea Oil and Gas Pty Ltd has decided to discontinue the renewal application of its coal seam gas exploration licence over the Manning Valley,” Mr Epov said.
“This will be such a relief for so many people who have been living in fear that one day a coal seam gas drilling rig may show up at their gate and insist on exploration on their property.
“This outcome for the Manning Valley is potentially another precedent which may have state-wide ramifications for many other regions where coal seam gas exploration licences have been issued, but there is no coal,” he added.
Mr Epov also said coal seam gas exploration licences should be issued judiciously, as they have serious implications on regional economies, tourism, and land values, in addition to the known environmental and social consequences.
“They should not be used as revenue raisers at the expense of communities, and people should not be forced to live in a climate of fear; waiting for that knock on the door that a mining company may be coming on to their property for coal seam gas exploration, as we have already seen with the social devastation in Gloucester.
“From an economic perspective the Manning Valley will now be a far more attractive and competitive location for business, from a tourism perspective and for people wishing to relocate to this beautiful region.
“It will open opportunities for people to grow and develop ‘clean’ and natural food industries without the risks of poisoned soil, air or water,” he said.
The alliance will now focus on the protection of the Manning River and maintain their campaign for fair and equitable landholder rights.
“We will be lobbying the NSW premier, the NSW National party and others, to secure the right for landholders to refuse access to mining and exploration companies entering their properties for the purpose of exploration,” Mr Epov added.
Gas mining 'cloud of uncertainty' lifted
LOCAL landholders can breathe a little more freely after Pangaea Resources confirmed it has no plans to explore for coal seam gas or place gas wells on farms or near residences in the Manning Valley.
As the holder of Petroleum Exploration Licence (PEL) 476, Pangaea has had the right to explore a 10,119 square kilometre area that includes the Manning Valley since 2009.
A spokesperson for the company has confirmed that an airborne magnetic/gravity survey of the area concluded there was low probability of exploitable oil or gas reserves in most of the area covered by PEL 476.
As a result of the survey findings Pangaea has decided to relinquish a substantial part of the licence to the State government. The only exception, said Pangaea, is a small area known as the Myall Syncline which sits between Forster and Port Stephens which may be evaluated further.
Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead said he is pleased to hear confirmation of his earlier statements that the Manning Valley does not contain any coal and therefore coal seam gas.
Living under the threat of coal seam gas exploration has been a cause of great concern for many residents and it has clouded the region in uncertainty for the past few years.
There has been a great deal of lobbying by concerned locals to bring an end to coal seam gas mining in NSW, a fight that continues especially in the Gloucester Valley where AGL is actively operating under an exploration licence.
But for those in the Manning it is welcome news that Peter Epov, president of the Manning Alliance, said should relieve a shroud of concern for many. "I am delighted on behalf of the people of the valley," he said. "This is a fantastic outcome."
Peter Epov now believes it would be very hard for another company to apply for an exploration licence in this area. The Manning Alliance has been working hard to secure assurance from the government that the licence will not be re-issued.
In August last year the Manning Alliance met with Stephen Bromhead to ask him to investigate the possible renewal at the time by Pangaea of the exploration licence and to have the renewal refused.
Mr Bromhead confirms he then made a representation to the minister not to renew PEL 476 until the Independent Review Panel chaired by the NSW Chief Scientist had completed her review. This review is expected to continue until later this year.
The key point, Mr Epov said, is that there should not be a licence available that allows anyone to explore for coal seam gas in an area that does not have any coal. "This puts the entire community under stress for nothing," he said.
However Pangaea's decision to voluntarily relinquish the licence and the admission of the survey findings is likely to help in the campaign to stop the re-issuing of an exploration licence in the valley.
The Manning Alliance has said that while it is a time for celebration, the focus now has to be directed on protecting the Manning River. The threat of coal seam gas drilling in our own back yards may well have been lifted, but the health of the Manning River remains the focus for many as the AGL coal seam gas project in Gloucester continues to evolve.