CSG miner denies poisoning trees in NSW

A coal seam gas (CSG) operator denies claims contaminated water has leaked from a dam at a project in northwest NSW, killing various trees.

Narrabri resident Tony Pickard says he discovered dead ironbark, cypress and bull oak trees while driving through the Bibblewindi State Forest, about 40km southwest of Narrabri, on Friday.

He believes CSG exploration in the area by Santos has contaminated a dam in the forest.

“Based on what I’ve seen at other sites, it’s definitely coal seam gas water that has leaked out of the system, and just spilt into the environment,” he told AAP.

Santos spokesman Sam Crafter blames rain for the excess water, which he says has been blackened by eucalyptus leaves.

“It (the rainwater) gathers in an area in the forest, it doesn’t move easily,” he told AAP.

He said regular maintenance work was being conducted at one of the company’s dams in the area but there had been “no release of water or any leaks at any of our sites”.

Mr Pickard rejected Mr Crafter’s comments, saying he didn’t believe there had been heavy rainfall in the area, and that he had seen black stains “on virgin soil” in areas where there were no trees.

“The rain stopped just before Christmas, he said.

“The area, while spongy, was reasonably dry.”

He said trees such as those that had died didn’t typically grow where rainfall was heavy.

A spokeswoman from the NSW Environment Protection Authority said the matter was being investigated.

A recent investigation by the Department of Primary Industries had “found no leak from the dam” a department spokeswoman said in a statement.

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