Gas miner defends locals

THE head of a mining company intent on exploring Griffith for coal seam gas visited the city last week to placate locals and call for calm.

During his visit on Friday, Grainger Energy director Vaughn Cullen revealed joint ownership of a separate mining business with the head of Casella Wines, John Casella, and accountant Roy Spagnolo, but said the two prominent locals weren't tied to coal seam gas exploration.

Grainger Energy has applied for a licence to explore for coal seam gas across the region.

Mr Cullen said the company Australian Mineral and Waterwell Drilling, established with Mr Casella and Mr Spagnolo, did not drill for coal seam gas and Grainger Energy was his own venture which neither of the local men were involved in.

The Area News reported in January that Mr Spagnolo was listed as director, secretary and sole owner of Grainger Energy, prompting Mr Cullen to explain that Mr Spagnolo had merely established the company on his behalf and the details would be changed.

Mr Cullen said Mr Casella and Mr Spagnolo did not stand to gain from coal seam gas but they provided a local connection that should make him the preferred candidate to explore for the resource.

"Of course I use Roy (Spagnolo) as my local accountant and unfortunately he has copped an enormous amount of flak for his connection with me," he said.

"But there is a dotted line between myself and people in the local community and I'm approachable and willing to talk to concerned locals, so wouldn't you rather Grainger than someone without local links?

"Everyone wants to hold me up as the bad guy but I am working within the legislation."

Mr Cullen met with Murrumbidgee MP Adrian Piccoli, who had days earlier lobbied for protection against coal seam gas in the MIA, as well as Councillor Anne Napoli who had previously told council Griffith residents would "drop dead like flies" if mining went ahead.

"As I said to Adrian Piccoli, in a review of 157 mining jurisdictions, NSW comes in at 142 in terms of ease of mining because our legislation is so strict," he said. "People think there's a conspiracy but they're just not aware of how strict the process is.

"If I get a licence, all we could do is drill a hole the same as many of the water bores in this area."

Mr Cullen's defence came the same day the retiring chief executive of the NSW Irrigators Council Andrew Gregson told the ABC farmers could not stop coal seam gas mining.

"In my opinion, I don't think you've got a chance in hell of stopping the development of the gas and mining industry in Australia," Mr Gregson said.

"People need to have the right to welcome the gas company onto their land or to choose not to.

"The only ones who don't seem to recognise that is the NSW government."

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