Miner buys three CSG licences in NSW

MINING company AJ Lucas Group has bought three major New South Wales coal seam gas exploration licences for $2.5 million, including one that spans much of the Northern Rivers.

The Greens warned the sale was proof the Baird government plans to greatly expand CSG operations across the state after the March 28 election.

AJ Lucas announced to the ASX it had bought PEL 445 in the Northern Rivers, PEL 456 in the Upper Hunter and PEL 458 over Newcastle from Dart Energy.

PEL 445 covers parts of local government areas Tenterfield, Kyogle, Tweed, Lismore, Ballina, the Richmond Valley and a small portion of the Clarence Valley, north of Baryulgil.

"AJ Lucas would not be making an investment decision like this unless they were confident they could develop coal seam gas after the election with the support of Mike Baird and the Nationals," the Greens' Jeremy Buckingham said.

"This proves that the recent flurry of token coal seam gas licence cancellations by the Baird government is nothing more than a cynical election stunt designed to try to hide their pro-CSG agenda from a sceptical public."

The Coalition has bought back "unviable" licences for undisclosed amounts in recent weeks.

Labor leader Luke Foley has shunned the policy, saying he could cancel and permanently ban CSG on the North Coast without dipping into taxpayer funds.

Metgasco managing director Peter Henderson said his company had already spent $120 million "in good faith" and would not hand back its licence without a fight.

The Coalition has gone quiet on its CSG plans, saying it would review all licences but not ruling out ramping up operations.

Environment Minister Rob Stokes yesterday announced funding for 19 renewable energy projects that he said would power more than 9000 homes.

But the Greens say it is a greenwashing technique to draw attention away from the government's true objectives.

"If you live in the Northern Rivers, Newcastle or the Upper Hunter then the message this purchase sends is clear - if Mike Baird and the Nationals are returned to power they will roll out coal seam gas across your community," Mr Buckingham said.

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