NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts.
NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts. Contributed

Land buy-back a step in the right direction

MINING activists say the buy-back of a 75,000ha petroleum exploration licence near Yamba is a step in the right direction but have vowed to continue their fight.

NSW Resources Minister Anthony Roberts announced PEL 457 has been cancelled after the government bought it back from ERM Gas yesterday.

The 2008-issued licence brings the total number of buy-backs and cancellations to 16.

"We have now reduced the footprint of CSG from around 60% of NSW to around 8.5%," Mr Roberts said.

Gasfield Free Northern Rivers regional coordinator Dean Draper said Metgasco remained his group's biggest concern.

The company announced on Monday buy-back negotiations had failed and it would sue the State Government over its decision to suspend its mining operations last year.

"Unlike Metgasco, (ERM Gas) hasn't been active in the region," Mr Draper said.

"But it's a good step forward to buy back any of the PELs in the Northern Rivers. "It has all happened behind closed doors but Chris Gulaptis and other representatives have told us they are negotiating to buy back all the licences."

Mr Draper called on the government to introduce legislation to force Metgasco to relinquish its Bentley mining licence.

"Metgasco has rejected the government's offer, so it seems the buy-back is not working with them," he said.

"The people have been loud and clear in their call for a gas field-free Northern Rivers, and we will not rest until it is achieved."

The buy-back scheme has been extended to September 30.