Mining company Arrow Energy is scoping out commercial opportunities for coal seam gas in the Scenic Rim, reigniting vehement public opposition to their licenses over the region.
The State Government is considering applications from Arrow for Potential Commercial Area (PCA) declarations over two large parts of the Scenic Rim, around Beaudesert and Boonah.
Those PCA declarations would give Arrow up to 15 more years to commercialise CSG in the Scenic Rim, after their previous Authority to Prospect (ATP) licenses in the region expired.
Mununjali traditional owners, the Mayor, State Member, local tourism operators, farmers and environmentalists have spoken out and want the State Government to refuse Arrow’s applications.
Historic community opposition
Arrow Energy stopped exploration drilling for CSG in the Scenic Rim in early 2012 after Keep the Scenic Rim Scenic staged a 10-day blockade and abseiled down cliffs on the region’s tallest peaks in globally reported protests against Arrow’s presence in the region.
In 2012 there was also opposition from State MP Jon Krause under what then became the Newman Government. Krause has reiterated his opposition to CSG in the Scenic Rim, saying it would be incompatible with the region’s agriculture and tourism driven economy.
When the Bulletin asked Arrow about its plans for the Scenic Rim earlier this year, on the 10th anniversary of those protests, the company did not mention its current PCA applications and said it had no plans to develop its ATP tenements ‘at this time’.
Arrow’s renewed local interest
After their pending Potential Commercial Area applications were revealed by advocacy group Lock the Gate, Arrow confirmed to the Bulletin that it has PCA applications over ATPs 644 (around Beaudesert) and 641 (around Boonah).
Arrow’s PCA applications were required to include a report showing the Scenic Rim is ‘likely to be commercially viable within 15 years’ and an evaluation program showing how they will ‘overcome any factors inhibiting the commercial viability of the project’.
The Bulletin requested a copy of the report and evaluation program however Arrow declined as it does not release commercial documents.
Resources Minister Scott Stewart did not respond to an enquiry from the Bulletin about widespread reports that he hasn’t ruled out the Queensland Government cancelling Arrow Energy’s two tenements in the Scenic Rim.
Instead, the Bulletin received a statement, to be attributed to a department spokesperson.
“Queensland’s mining and environmental laws ensure any resources project must stack up environmentally, financially and in the interests of the public. Arrow Energy is seeking renewal of two permits in the Scenic Rim which only allow for exploration activities such as geological and geophysical studies and seismic reprocessing,” it read.
“There is currently no application for production of gas resources in these tenements.”
‘Not welcome here’
Political leaders, Mununjali community, tourism operators and environmentalists have responded to Arrow’s renewed interest with a resounding ‘not welcome here’ message.
At time of print, Mayor Greg Christensen was taking his views against CSG in the Scenic Rim to Minister Stewart via video call and liaising with Arrow to organise a meeting.
He said CSG posed a risk to the region’s water supplies and was incompatible with the region’s tourism and agriculture industries.
“The two tenements cover close to 60 per cent of the region’s footprint… and sit across our agricultural land and our waterways including Logan, Albert, Bremer, Warrill,” he said.
“Among other things, those water courses are critical to our town water supply, our aquifers provide stock, domestic, horticulture and agriculture water across all those communities.”
Mununjali man Germaine Paulson said it was not welcome on Mununjali country.
“From a Mununjali perspective, we always try to look at the long term, not short-term industrial capitalism, but what’s the effect of these actions 200 years from now?” he said.
“From what I know of CSG mining, those effects aren’t something I support – the effects on the environment, our health and our future.”
Member for Scenic Rim Jon Krause, who opposed CSG in 2012, reiterated his opposition.
“I call on the state government not to renew the permits. The government has an opportunity to stand with the community, with the farmers and tourism sector, and use this opportunity under legislation to not renew those permits,” he said.
“In 2012 it was my view CSG wasn’t compatible with our region… since then, tourism has really expanded, and agriculture remains obviously a mainstay of the region, and that just emphasises my point that the government should not renew the permits.”
Keep the Scenic Rim Scenic spokesperson Innes Larkin, who was instrumental in the 2012 protests and was one of 14 people arrested at the Kerry Blockade, said he believed community action was powerful enough to drive Arrow out of the Scenic Rim again.
“Despite welcome state and local government opposition last time, the only thing that stopped Arrow was community protesting and getting arrested,” he said.
“If we have to go down that path again, I know there are even more people this time who are prepared to put their body on the line to protect this region. It is not just a light approach from the community – they are steadfastly opposed.”