Northern Illawarra CSG needs greater scrutiny: geologist

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Concerns over plans to sink coal seam gas wells in the Illawarra have been raised by an industry insider.

A retired geologist told the ABC she has written to the Department of Planning outlining her concerns over Apex Energy’s approval to sink 15 test wells between Coledale and Helensburgh in the northern Illawarra.

Dr Ann Young said the project will require land to be cleared close to valuable swamps and water catchment lands.

"Some of them are very close to upland swamps," she told the ABC.

"Some of them are on the edge of what would be very high quality high conservation value woodlands.

"An idea of how valuable the upland swamps are is given by the fact that BHP actually withdrew all the areas with upland swamps from their Bulli Seam (mining) project".

The former geologist has also criticised the lack of proper scrutiny to mining licensed given previously.

"I think one of the most important things that has been recognised is that until quite recently a full exploration licences are given without full environmental assessment," she said.

"In fact that may still be the case, and so by the time the mine is proposed then a company has already invested a vast amount of money and they’re expecting to be given the go ahead".

On Monday new restrictions in New South Wales were introduced, which aim to solve the disputes between farmers and miners by banning all new coal, coal seam gas (CSG) and petroleum mining until it can be proven the operations will not damage land or water resources.

The moratorium applies only to new projects, which allowed exploration drilling to begin yesterday under the Belanglo State Forest.

An Apex Energy spokesman said the company drilled one well at Darkes Forest in 2004 and there are plans to drill two cores holes this year.

He said if gas is produced it could be piped to the East Coast Gas pipeline, the Moomba pipeline at Appin, or the Tallawarra Gas fired power station, and it is unlikely it would lead to a small gas fired power station in the northern Illawarra.

Apex says it does not use the controversial fracking technique to access the resource, and has no plans to start using the method.

Even so, hundreds of protestors are expected to make a human sign in the sand at Austimner Beach this weekend to protest coal seam gas mining.
 

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