Does Lakes Oil have a social licence to drill?

THE community has had several recent wins in the battle over onshore oil and gas mining.

Following the packed meeting at Seaspray Hall on Saturday, Lakes Oil were in overdrive trying to distance their operations from the coal seam gas debate.

A semantic argument, since all types of onshore mining, have the potential to cause contamination of water, land and air.

Not all CSG needs fracking, but tight gas and shale gas do.

Fracking involves vast quantities of water and chemicals blasted down wells into gas bearing strata, in the hope that it will releases commercial quantities of gas.

Late on Monday (May 13), locals began to receive letters from Lakes Oil, announcing plans to commence flaring, on Tuesday morning (May 14).

This was planned for one of their numerous tight gas well sites, in their Wombat Field.

At very short notice, a few locals were able to form a ‘reception committee’ at the site.

The flaring duly commenced and was filmed by Melbourne and Gippsland television crews, who had been alerted.

On Tuesday night, the story even made it onto national radio as well as our evening television news bulletins.

All of this organised by locals, working together to harness support, despite it being budget day.

CEO Rob Annells went on Melbourne radio suggesting that there was nothing to worry about and that his companies were not interested in coal seam gas. (Also known as coal bed methane).

Nobody asked the question, “why is Lakes Oil flaring off this gas?”.

Most people assume it is in preparation for fracking, as soon as the moratorium is lifted in the next few months or weeks.

However, the company’s most recent quarterly report suggests it may be interested in drilling deeper, to get at oil which has leaked up natural faults from deep below the gas.

If this is the case, then why don’t they just say so?

Also, if they have documented leakage upwards from deep below, how can they be so sure that no fracking toxins will leak up into our aquifers?

To cap off the week, Gina Rinehart delivered another of her Paulinesque, video monologues, on why mining needs less regulation and taxes.

Since she was the big news story of the day, it was no real surprise that her interest, via Alexander Downer, in Lakes Oil, was noted.

In a statewide broadcast Mr Downer mocked concerned Seaspray residents and claimed that if so few people turned up to protest, most of the community must be in favour of Lakes Oil doing whatever it is, they want to do.

However he also failed to say exactly what that might be.

The one thing governments and mining companies are obsessed with, is having a ‘social licence’ to operate in our communities.

Without that, their ventures are doomed.

Since governments began to get nervous, we have seen two New South Wales projects called off.

In Gippsland, we must continue to demonstrate our resistance.

If miners walk onto land, and put at risk our soil and water, how will we maintain a healthy agricultural sector?

It seems that our community won round one, but we must continue to work together.

We can’t afford to rest on our laurels just yet.