Sunday, 24 June 2012


Last week protesters prevented further work on a coal seam gas (CSG) pond being constructed by Metgasco west of Casino in the NSW Northern Rivers area.

                      Protesters near the Metgasco "holding pond"                              Photo:  J Edwards

CSG miners construct ponds to hold water produced as part of the gas extraction process. Disposal of this water, which contains an array of chemicals, many of them toxic, has become an issue where CSG is being mined. This contaminated water poses a threat to aquifers, streams and urban water catchments if it is not properly contained. In the 2011 Queensland floods some of this “produced” water escaped from its holding ponds leading to contamination of extensive areas.  In the Pilliga woodland in central NSW on 25 June 2011 10,000 litres of CSG water leaked into the environment causing tree and animal deaths.  Eastern Star Gas (taken over by Santos on 17 November 2011) failed to notify the state government of the leak as it was required to do. Santos, after previously denying that such a leak had occurred, finally confirmed it had happened in January 2012.

Last year in July the NSW Government banned construction of CSG evaporation ponds in response to community concerns about the danger of overflows and leakage of toxic chemicals from these structures.

In response to the Casino protest, NSW Minister for Resources and Energy, Chris Hartcher, stated on 21 June  that the government had not approved any evaporation ponds since its July 2011 ban, and that the Metgasco pond was a "holding pond" approved by Richmond Valley Council.

Photo: J Edwards

Boudicca Cerese, spokesperson for Lock the Gate Northern Rivers, said, "The Minister tried to split hairs about the difference between an evaporation pond and a holding pond, but no-one is buying it - a toxic pond is a toxic pond and we don't want them.

"Management of coal seam gas wastewater in the region is a ticking time bomb that represents a real risk to our floodplains, waterways and farmland.

"It is clear from the Ministers' statement … that the NSW Government intends to allow widespread use of wastewater 'holding ponds' across NSW and the Northern Rivers." 

 The protesters have announced that they intend to continue their action against Metgasco's "holding pond".

The Metgasco "holding pond" under construction       Photo: J Edwards