Anti-gas campaigners: Metgasco should take the money and run
UPDATE 1.07pm: METGASCO should take government's compensation offer and leave the region for good, local gasfield free campaigners have said in the wake of Metgasco's announcement they are shortly restarting field operations in the Northern Rivers.
Bentley Gatekeepers spokesman Ross Joseph said the announcement had been met with "renewed determination and commitment" from the community to again oppose the company's plans.
"The government made them an offer to withdraw easily from the Northern Rivers and Minister Roberts has said that they remain willing to negotiate," Mr Joseph said in a statement.
"Metgasco should take the money and run."
'We live here, we work here, and we are not going anywhere," Mr Joseph said, adding that he expected the opposition to the CSG industry to only get bigger.
"How many times do we need to tell them to go away and why is this company continually ignoring the fact that they are not welcome here?"
"If Metgasco won't take the easy way out, then it's clearly in the hands of the government; they should support Labor's bill for a moratorium which specifically excludes the Northern Rivers from unconventional gas activity.
"Our community would be protected, and the whole thing would be done and dusted."
UPDATE 11.21am: METGASCO chief Peter Henderson has refuted the notion Metgasco's latest announcements are part of a strategy to stare down the NSW Government into offering the company a better compensation deal to leave the Northern Rivers.
The company has announced today that it is returning to the field to conduct seismic testing in the Lismore City Council area in November, followed by drilling at Bentley as soon as the end of the year.
The seismic testing will take place along Rock Valley Rd (in Rock Valley) and Bungabee Rd, Bentley.
Asked if the plans were just a ruse to leverage a better licence buyout deal from Resources Minister Anthony Roberts, Mr Henderson firmly denied it.
"Our job is to explore for gas and to develop it, that's what our shareholders have paid us to do," he said.
Last week Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell told The Northern Star that the council had resolved to ban seismic testing on its roads and road reserves in 2011.
However, Mr Henderson said he understood the council had received legal advice that they didn't have that authority.
"It's the NSW Government that makes that decision," he said.
"It would be absurd if local councils could override state government approvals … how would anyone want to invest if they came along and found that a local council…is taking a political (position) contrary to the state government and stopping the work."
He said the company would do their best to continue to communicate with people about their plans.
The seismic testing was "a very safe process" which would only take four days and most people probably wouldn't even notice it was happening.
"If we get some local people who are passionately against the industry, they've got to right to express those views but not to impede the process," he said.
"We cannot be expect to get 100% of the community supporting our activity."
INITIAL REPORT: UNBOWED by an historic blockade, the suspension of its license, and a multi-million dollar court case, Metgasco is back - and moving ahead at a rapid clip with its plans to restart its Northern Rivers gas exploration.
Today the company announced to the Australian stock exchange that it had signed a contract to conduct a seismic testing program in its PEL16 exploration licence which surrounds Casino and extends north and north-east of the beef capital.
The seismic testing, to be carried out by Terrex Seismic, is expected to happen over four days in late November.
Another big announcement is that the company has almost completed negotiations with a drilling contractor for the Rosella well at Bentley.
It will be the second attempt the gas mining explorer has attempted drilling the Rosella well, which had a false start last year due to the 5000-strong Bentley Blockade which forced the NSW Government to suspend the company's licence at the last moment.
Metgasco said it planned to announce the proposed timing for the Rosella drilling program in the next few weeks.
In a statement on the seismic testing, the company said "the seismic program has been planned for some time and already has the NSW Government's approval via the Review of Environmental Factors process".
"The purpose of the seismic program is to provide more definition of the northern extent of the Greater Mackellar conventional / tight gas exploration prospect.
"The additional seismic is expected to provide increased confidence of the structure's closure before testing the prospect with the planned Rosella well.
Metgasco managing director Peter Henderson said that seismic surveys were a "low impact, non-invasive method of gathering subsurface geological and geophysical data and are used in a variety of application besides natural gas exploration, including aquifer mapping".
"The current program will be run along existing roads and will have minimal impact on the local community or landholders.
"More details of the program will be made available to the public via Metgasco's website and local advertisements over the next few weeks".
The statement said Metgasco has already acquired about 440kms of seismic in the area, making the 16km planned in this program less than 5% of their total seismic mapping to date.
"The seismic data and geological information has been made available to Government, which is using the models to better manage aquifers and resources in general."