An Australian law firm has issued a warning, saying that some coal seam gas companies have been seeking shortcuts around the correct process required when negotiating with landholders over access rights to their properties.
Creevey Russell Lawyers partner Damian Bell said those companies seeking shortcuts are on the rise, despite having to undergo an extensive process if they choose to enter property.
Under Queensland law, mining and petroleum companies looking to enter property are required to negotiate Conduct and Compensation Agreements (CCA) with all registered owners and occupiers.
Mr Bell explained that the first formal stage of the CCA process requires the resource company or ‘authority holder’ to provide landholders with a Notice of Intention to Negotiate (NIN).
“This NIN stipulates a minimum negotiation period of 20 business days during which the authority holder is not allowed to access the land to carry out ‘advanced activities’,” he said.
“However, we have seen a growing tendency for the CSG companies to skip the NIN and begin talking directly to issues such as access and compensation. This is a typical tactic to try and cut short the process and attempt to lock up the deal before the landholder is properly advised on both [of] these key points.
“Once the NIN has been provided, and in some cases before, a landholder will be given a draft CCA. The landholder is then able to negotiate the technical terms and conditions of the agreement that will reflect the unique requirements of their property.”
Mr Bell noted that if negotiations on the CCA are unsuccessful: “the parties can engage in alternative dispute resolution or a mediation conference co-ordinated by an appropriately qualified independent person”.
“If negotiations remain unsuccessful, the parties may seek a determination from the Land Court as to the terms of the CCA,” he said.
“With more than 40 years of combined rural and resources experience, we are ideally qualified to help right across Queensland and NSW with respect to CSG negotiations.”