The exploration licence held by Petragas Ltd, EL3/2013, has shrunk. The exploration licence, covering the Southern Midlands and Derwent Valley, used to cover 3,838 square kilometres, but the company has surrendered approximately 45% of this, or 1738 sq km in the South and East of the area, leaving 2100 square kilometres.
Frack Free Tas belatedly became aware of this change in licence area. The surrender was granted on Jan 27, 2016, but it occurred without any notification to communities or landowners in the area, and would have taken a while to be reflected in their publicly-available mapping layers.
Meanwhile, coincidentally from Jan to March 2016, communities in the the South Eastern Midlands, around Tunnack, were carrying out local surveys of residents to ascertain the level of resistance to the prospect of their landscape being transformed into an industrial gasfield. The communities of that area declared themselves gasfield free in a ceremony on Apr 3rd, 2016. In a lead up to that event, The Minister for Mines, Adam Brooks, mentioned the licensee had surrendered 1738 sq km (The Examiner Thursday 31st March). So the Minister knew, (as would have Paul Harris, the previous Minister), but the state government shows scant regard for the community's need to know of such details.
In fact there is no obligation for the company, nor the government agency, Mineral Resources Tasmania, to notify anyone of such a change. The only obligation is to advertise the original application for the exploration licence, and notify specific landowners only if their interests are directly affected. This translates to notification only when they want access to someone’s land and/or their permission to drill a well. This illustrates a major flaw in the current legislation. It was drawn up before unconventional mining was conceived, so does not consider the massive scale required to frack for gas, nor the long list of potentially serious impacts to land, water and human health that transcend the boundaries of just the "directly affected" landowners.
The surrendered land goes through a process, becoming an Exploration Release Area (ERA) where other companies can apply for exploration, which is what is occurring in the Central Highlands area, ERA981.
Petragas does not have any obligation to state why they surrendered this portion of their exploration area, but it is most likely the result of a review of existing geoscience data indicating that the area is of low prospectivity for the target resources.
Petragas, is wholly owned by Petratherm Ltd (current share price of 0.7 cents) and the silent change of licence area fits with their track record of being non- communicado with the Tasmanian community.
Their track record includes not showing up for a legislative council briefing (2015), declining requests to attend local community meetings (2013), offering no submission to the Tasmanian Review on hydraulic fracturing (2014) and giving no detailed information when their original application was advertised until exactly after the 28 days had passed for landowners to object to the original exploration area (14 Aug 2013). Comically, in their cruelly-timed media release, they espoused their commitment to engaging with the local community:
"Will you be undertaking community consultation, and if so, when, where and how?
A process for consultation will be established from the outset of receiving an exploration licence. We expect to undertake extensive local stakeholder consultation which will provide information and ensure an agreed work program occurs. Public meetings will be held in council areas where activities will be performed and key associations and groups will also be consulted. "
Petragas Q and A, Aug 14 2013, see in full: Here.
So, despite a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing being declared by a non-leglislated policy, exploration for shale gas continues, and the public, including affected landholders, hear very little from the company nor from a state government, who seem quite happy to keep information restricted to a need-to-know basis.