Andrew Cripps
Andrew Cripps Contributed

CSG mining industry powers meet in Brisbane

BENEATH the pom-pom waving for coal seam gas at its first dedicated conference held in Brisbane, there appeared to be a simmering jealousy, as the New South Wales gas industry looked on with awe of Queensland's progress.

Both states have potentially huge gas reserves but Queensland has established their quality and from the Surat Basin near Toowoomba to Gladstone and throughout Central Queensland, projects are afoot.

Resources Minister Andrew Cripps celebrated the industry for employing 18,500 although the sector would not export the refined coal seam gas - which becomes liquefied natural gas - until late 2014.

"A massive 88% of the near 6000 strong construction workforce on Curtis Island (in Gladstone) are Queenslanders," Mr Cripps said.

"Queensland's companies have also benefited from this investment by winning supply contracts worth about $6 billion."

He also announced a cash-bidding system, putting the most lucrative gas fields into a type of auction so savvy entrepreneurs are unable to snap them up then on-sell them at a premium.

Meanwhile in NSW, just 200 are employed in the industry.

State resources minister Chris Hartcher said he wanted to see the state follow the lead of their northern neighbours, replicating the resources boom that transformed Queensland into a national powerhouse.

"New South Wales clearly has a long way to go if it's going to successfully and responsibly develop its CSG," he said.

"Queensland has advanced and we wish to follow that level of advancement."

Gas firms are prospecting, particularly in north-west NSW near Gunnedah and Lismore but they face loud and powerful opponents in the form of the Lock the Gate campaigners.

That power appeared muted on Tuesday during the conference as a group of 100-strong protestors were kept well away from the conference entrance of Brisbane's exhibition centre.

Their chants of "lock the gate" and "leave it in the ground" was mostly heard by the patrolling police teams.

Mr Hartcher said campaign from green groups in general was marked by "distorted figures" and a reliance on an American film on the topic.

"We welcome responsible debate but we want it to be responsible."

Federal Minister Martin Ferguson told the conference that to improve the reputation of the much-maligned industry, they had to earn a "social licence" to operate, something relying on the goodwill of the communities they access.

This was a point he appears to share with the anti-CSG movement, with Tuesday's protest organiser Scott Sledge echoing his views outside.

When asked the purpose of the rally, Mr Sledge said it was about showcasing the views of the Australian majority, a majority he believed were against CSG mining.

"Essentially, we are here to show (companies) do not have a social licence to mine in Australia," he said.

Mr Ferguson ended his speech saying CSG was not just an option for the future, it was the future.

"There is a strong government and industry commitment to realise the true potential of CSG in domestic and international markets," he said.

"We have progressed well down a long and ultimately rewarding path."

The conference concludes on Wednesday.