OIL and gas company Santos today dismissed community concerns that its coal-seam gas (CSG) exploration activities damage inland Queensland’s ecosystem.
Speaking at an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Santos GLNG president Mark Macfarlane cited research showing CSG exploration has zero-harm.
“Sixty separate environmental impact study reports on the impact on the Great Artesian Basin concluded we won’t have a (negative) impact,” says Macfarlane.
“We take brackish water and separate clean and saline water through reverse osmosis (filtration), injecting saline water deep into the earth. Clean water is then used to irrigate crops or inject CSG drinking water into the town’s water supply.”
The remark comes as Queensland Environment Minister Vicky Darling investigates unrelated allegations that her department breached national guidelines by allowing CSG water to be dumped in the Condamine River.
Media reports claimed the CSG water still contained chemicals and traces of heavy metals.
Santos says its irrigation strategy for an oat crop field supplied 700 megalitres of water over five years.
“To dispel landholder concern about water consumption, I got them and their grandparents to drink the water. The quality of water was better than drinking water from Adelaide,” says Macfarlane.
However, University of Queensland Sustainable Minerals Institute director Chris Moran warns that moving underground water will create ‘negative pressure’.
“Local changes will happen in the landscape,” says Moran.
“There are local pathways for (underground) water to move. CSG exploration squashes the underground landscape, making the clay, sandstone, water and gas move. The water will move differently than before due to the pressure.”
CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences deputy chief Peter Stone believes the lack of support from communities affected by CSG exploration reflects their deficient knowledge.
“There is a lack of knowledge. It’s often an issue of economy versus ecology and rural lifestyles,” says Stone.
Moran believes the community should have better access to information.
“We need quality information, checks, balances and publications. People need to know the dangers of what’s happening with mining,” he says.
Macfarlane says Santos has monitored water since 1999 and regularly publishes data on its website.
“People can see data on acreage, surface water, ground water, pH levels and movement,” he says.
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