Published by The Border Watch
by Sandra Morello
MEMBER for Mount Gambier Troy Bell has called on the State Government to re-ignite parliamentary debate over mining legislation given its decision to open up expansive new areas for potential gas exploration.
With the contentious Mining Bill left in “limbo”, he said it was crucial legislation embedded the protection of farmers and landholders against invasive mining activities.
While the fracking moratorium was set in legislation, Mr Bell said the government had now opened up much of the Lower South East to potential conventional petroleum mining.
“The fracking moratorium will allay some fears and the government decision does not mean there will be exploration - there is a long way to go in the process,” Mr Bell said.
He said the government had “every right” to release these new exploration licences.
Although supporting conventional gas mining if undertaken in a “well planned manner”, the politician revealed he did not want to see farmers’ rights eroded at the expense of mining companies.
“In my opinion, there has been far too much power given to the mining sector,” Mr Bell said.
He said the Mining Bill must now return to the parliament for debate.
Grant District Mayor Richard Sage said the sticking points in the new exploration licences would be the number of wells, their location and access issues.
“It is important that farmers can still do what they do. I would not want to see the industry interfering with our water table,” Mr Sage said.
The civic leader revealed there had been a number of drilling programs undertaken in the Grant district.
“There were a couple around Port MacDonnell, but they did not produce anything,” he said.
“They must have done some research to find some more areas.”
Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association SA/NT director Matthew Doman yesterday welcomed the State Government's support for the continued expansion of the natural gas industry in the Limestone Coast.
He said it was now up to exploration companies to come forward and express their interest in these new acreage blocks being opened.
Mr Doman said the state, including the South East, was a significant user of natural gas and it was important to develop new gas supplies.
The industry advocate said gas mining was not new to the South East given there had been 80 wells drilled in the region since the 1960s.
“The first ever well was drilled at Salt Creek in 1866,” Mr Doman said.
He said the gas industry had been undertaken safely and sustainably in the region with the “collaboration of landholders”.
Mr Doman said any exploration and drilling programs would not be able to move ahead without environmental approvals.
The gas mining lobbyist also downplayed any fears the roll-out of new mining areas could potentially lead to conflict with regional landholders.
Mr Doman said land access agreements would need to be negotiated between both parties.
If an agreement could not be reached, he revealed the matter would head to arbitration.
But he said this had yet to be a “major issue” with only a handful of agreements not being able to be reached across Australia.
Member for MacKillop Nick McBride has welcomed the release of new petroleum exploration licences.
“I am hopeful the further exploration and discovery of gas will assist in shoring up our state’s gas suppliers,” Mr McBride said.
“Importantly, I would like to see South East based businesses benefit from local gas discovery.”