Qld Government quietly creates CSG no-go zone near Chinchilla

Monday, 27 May, 2019

Qld Government quietly creates CSG no-go zone near Chinchilla

The ABC has reported that the Queensland Government has placed a ban on coal seam gas drilling in a 10 km radius exclusion zone around a former Linc Energy underground coal gasification site at Hopeland, near Chinchilla.

Linc Energy was “charged with five counts of wilfully and unlawfully causing environmental harm” between 2007 and 2013 at Chinchilla last May and was fined $4.5 million.

The ban was prompted by the risk of spreading toxic groundwater from what is considered one of Queensland’s worst environmental contaminations; however, two companies are already extracting gas in the area. Arrow and QGC have been allowed to keep on working within the no-go zone on existing, separate mining leases.

The state government quietly created the ban, but the decision was buried “in an environmental approval issued to Arrow Energy in December”. And on a separate, neighbouring mining lease — approved in August — Arrow gained approval to ramp up six existing pilot wells for commercial production.

Farmers said they were alarmed by the revelation and want state officials to come clean about the risks of groundwater contamination spreading under prime grazing and cropping land.

The ABC reports that it understands tests on groundwater contamination were being examined by a trio of experts who would be called as state witnesses in a criminal prosecution of five former Linc executives next month.

In 2017, the environment department revealed testing had found gas-contaminated soil 25 km further south of the excavation exclusion zone. A spokesman for the Department of Environment and Science said the conditions on the two Arrow leases near the former Linc site were different because they covered “activities that are different in scale and intensity”.

He said the 10-km buffer was “based on groundwater modelling and is to minimise potential impacts from the former Linc site”.

Linc Energy's former site is in blue, the white-rimmed circle shows a 10-kilometre radius. (Source: Department of Natural Resources via ABC).

Linc Energy's former site is in blue and the white-rimmed circle shows a 10-kilometre radius with other existing sites. (Source: Department of Natural Resources via ABC)

Many of the farmers operating just outside the 10 km zone are concerned by its size and the lack of transparency, but “the department has extensively engaged with the local community, including surrounding landholders, about the former Linc Energy site and resource activities in the area, and continues to do so”, the spokesman said.

He said the government had done “considerable work to monitor and manage the site’s environmental impact including installing a groundwater monitoring network”.

“The department maintains that this is not an exclusion zone as other activities which support production can still occur within this area,” he said.

Top image: Former Linc Energy site at Hopeland, now in the care of the Department of Natural Resources. (Source: ABC News - Nathan Morris)

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