Media release
12th April 2001

Narrabri Gas Field – an environmental disaster

18 months ago the Department of Mineral Resources announced a significant potential for methane gas in the "Narrabri Gas Field", an area at the north of the Pilliga forest, 30 km south of Narrabri. Exploration is being undertaken by Forcenergy, a multinational corporation.

Inspections of these drill sites has revealed that all rigs are inactive and being dismantled, two sites exhibit significant local environmental damage.

At one site a holding dam containing petrochemical sludge has broken, killing a large area of trees in the forest. Dead animals were found nearby confirming the toxicity of the substances released. It appears that the breach happened some month ago and there has been no attempt to rehabilitate the area.

There is serious concern that this material has contaminated surface water bodies and has infiltrated the water table. The Pilliga is a large aquifer for the Namoi River.

The National Parks Association reported the matter to the Environmental Protection Authority last week who have taken samples of the residues from the area. Tests wait to confirm the nature of the substances involved.

At another site, it appears an artesian well has been hit and salty water is still being pumped out into large holding areas. These water storages are unlined and so seepage into the ground water is likely. Methane gas, a primary contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, is being released through a flare-pipe, unburnt, into the atmosphere. This also has been going on for at least 4 months.

It seems that environmental guidelines at these exploration sites are not being met and this has significant consequences for the community, as gas potential has been identified through out the north-west following an investment of $36 million by the Department of Mineral Resources into mineral and gas potential in the region.

The DMR, who are the consent authority for these exploration activities, has been requested to provide explanations to these issues at the next meeting of the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council in May.

The Western Conservation Alliance and peak environment groups in NSW are concerned at the environmental damage at the drill sites and wishes to let the community know about the lack of accountability and environmental damage caused by these exploration activities. They request the government that these exploration activities cease until an environmental impact statement has been completed.

Please contact: David Paull (NPA Western woodlands Officer), 02 68850504 or 0428601013

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