Kyogle mayor Danielle Mulholland at the Bentley Blockade

15 May 2014 — Following months of united community opposition to Metgasco’s plans for coal seam gas extraction at Bentley in the Kyogle Shire in Northern New South Wales, the state government has suspended the firm’s exploration licence on the grounds of failing to consult with the community.

Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham described the decision as “a win for the people of the Northern Rivers… and a clear demonstration that a social licence is both real and necessary.”

State energy minister Anthony Roberts has also referred the project to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, following information received about the company’s shareholdings and interests, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report.

The Office of Coal Seam Gas will be undertaking an audit of all petroleum exploration licences across the state to ensure conditions are being met. These conditions include a genuine and effective community consultation.

Metgasco has been active in the Northern Rivers Regions since the mid-2000s when the company first announced plans for a gas field and gas-fired power station in the Richmond Valley Council Area, just south of Bentley.

The power station project was approved in 2010, and a gas production licence granted for a gas field west of Casino in 2012. Despite initial agreements being made with local businesses for supply of compressed natural gas, the development of production gas wells was halted in 2013.

According to Metgasco, the power station project is also currently on hold. The company website states that “changes in the eastern coast electricity market have questioned the need and timing for new base load power stations, changing the economics for the proposed base load power station”.

“Metgasco continues to review options, which include the building of a peak load power station rather than a base load power station.”