Coal seam gas mining company Metgasco’s shares plummeted to an all-time low of 15.5 cents this week, a drop of some eight per cent since last week.
The apparent nervousness of investors is not shared by Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson, who was issued 1,352,000 shares by the company on November 14 and has vowed the company will press ahead with CSG well drilling.
There is a lot at stake. If Metgasco complete their planned wells in the Northern Rivers and push the Lions Way pipeline through to its major market in Queensland, the company’s fortunes are sure to considerably improve.
Last week Mr Henderson declared that a poll conducted during Lismore’s 2012 council elections – which found 86.86% of voters to be against CSG, was fraudulent. And despite six Northern Rivers councils and 70 communities declaring themselves gasfield-free, Mr Henderson told the Daily Examiner last week that the public debate over CSG has been hi-jacked by ill-informed radicals.
“We do our best to provide real information but some people would rather hear anecdotal evidence and come to incredible conclusions that have no basis in fact,” he said.
He claimed that Metgasco employees have been threatened – and a bomb scare was phoned into their Casino office this week.
However Annie Kia, of CSG Northern Rivers, who held a vigil outside Casino’s Metgasco office when the bomb threat was allegedly phoned in on Tuesday at 1pm, ridiculed the suggestion.
“We don’t even believe this was real” she said. “There is a pattern of exaggeration and distortion coming from Metgasco’s PR. While Metgasco constantly complain to the media about protesters, their message to their shareholders is completely different… at their AGM this year, there was barely a mention of public resistance.”
Meanwhile, protestors have been successful in delaying construction of a well at Glenugie, south of Grafton, over the past fortnight. Local land-holder Deb Whitley chained herself to a truck on December 4, delaying fencing work around the site. Later actions managed to turn away a truck bearing an industrial generator, and the vigil at Casino and growing presence of protestors at the Glenugie site have thus far deterred Metgasco from bringing their drill rig to the site to complete the well.
With the groundswell of popular opposition to Metgasco’s activities appearing to be on the rise, its shareholders may well be in for an anxious ride.
I’ve been to the anti-CSG protest site at Glenugie and met a small group of nervous but highly determined people, mostly locals. None of them are experienced at this kind of thing, most are middle-aged or over and very well informed. All are deeply concerned about the potential hazards of CSG drilling.
Improvising delaying actions and using non-violent protest tactics such as lying down in front of vehicles, they’ve been successful in dramatically slowing Metgasco’s operations, turning away a generator truck and deterring a drill rig from even leaving its temporary base at Casino. It’s an emotional business – a truck-driver contracted by Metgasco quit after Deb Whitley’s brave lock-on and a young policeman was seen in tears, overwhelmed by the events.
Other concerned individuals have dropped by, including a council worker, with no political knowledge of the CSG controversy but an instinctive conviction that drilling so close to the Coldstream River where he fishes is not a good idea.
Farmers, a retired boxer, health-care workers and , they’re all represented by a shifting demographic. People come and go. But an abiding belief in what they’re doing remains.