Farmers in north-west NSW and the Upper Hunter have seen evidence of so-called 'zombie gas licences' returning from the dead following the approval of the Narrabri gas project.
Zombie Petroleum Exploration Licences are licences that have expired but have not been formally extinguished.
There are 12 such licences that stretch across 56,000 square kilometres between the Queensland border, Dubbo, Moree, the Warrumbungles, and the Upper Hunter.
A day after the Independent Planning Commission approved the project last week, Comet Ridge, a joint partner with Santos that owns licences PEL 6, PEL 427, and PEL 428, released a statement to the ASX welcoming the project's approval and announcing it "anticipates a return to exploration and approval" of two of its three dormant licences.
"It's what we feared would happen if the Narrabri gasfield was approved, and it's shattering news to hear these gas companies and the government are so eager to put our land, water and communities at risk," Mulalley farmer Margaret Fleck said.
The property is included in PEL 12, owned by Santos' joint venture partner Carbon Minerals.
Carbon Minerals released a statement earlier this year flagging investment in its dormant PELs in the north west.
"A huge area of land across north west NSW is now at serious risk of being transformed into industrial gasfields, as we have seen in the Surat Basin in Queensland," Ms Fleck said.
"This means we could face the same problems as farmers further north - drained and contaminated groundwater, huge areas of land cleared and pockmarked with unconventional gas wells, and the need for companies to dump mammoth amounts of toxic CSG waste."
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government should have stamped out the licences long ago.
"These companies have sat on these licences for years, creating uncertainty for farmers and communities who just want to get on with their lives without the threat of destructive CSG hanging over their heads," Ms Woods said.
"Many of these companies have failed to comply with NSW law by simply sitting on these licences and doing nothing with them for so many years, so the government has every opportunity to cancel them and give farming communities some certainty.
"Local members representing these farming communities should listen to the concerns of their constituents and ensure the government permanently slays these zombie licences."
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