Minister caps Fermanagh fracking licence
A company with controversial plans to carry out fracking in Fermanagh is to head to the courts after it had its licence terminated.
Tamboran Resources applied for permission to drill a 750 metre-deep borehole in Belcoo, which it had stated was not fracking.
The proposed quarry site has been the focus of a round-the-clock protest in opposition to its work.
The terms of licence required the company to drill a borehole to take rock samples and carry out a preliminary environmental review within the three-year time frame.
In March, the Australian company was granted a six-month extension until September 30, 2014, to complete the first part of the work.
Yesterday, the Minister of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), Arlene Foster, said she could not extend the deadline again.
She said: "There has been much engagement with Tamboran. We have assessed they have not completed their work plan in terms of the licence and therefore we will not be extending it any further. Looking at all of the evidence, I have therefore taken the decision that I cannot give them another extension."
She added: "In terms of Tamboran, they will now have to consider their options but in terms of the licence granted to them by the department, it is now at an end."
It comes after the Environment Minister Mark H Durkan ruled in August that Tamboran would have to make a full planning application with an accompanying environmental statement before drilling at the site.
In a statement, Tamboran Resources stated it requested the extension of the deadline after informing DETI that it would be seeking a judicial review of the decision by the DoE rejecting the request to drill at the site.
It is now moving to a judicial review of DETI's decision.
It said: "After investing in excess of £3m to date, we are disappointed that DETI failed to consider the option of a temporary extension pending clarification by the court as to the timelines for the judicial review.
"This decision as it stands could close the door on a project that could deliver up to 50 years of secure energy supply, in excess of 2,000 jobs, and billions of much needed investment in the local economy."
The statement added: "We have consulted with counsel and we are also moving to a judicial review of DETI's decision."
Donal O Cofaigh of Belcoo Frack Free lobby group welcomed the decision.
He said: "It's a tremendous victory for the campaign.
"It's a people power victory and it belongs to everyone locally.
"Obviously there are proposals to continue drilling for shale gas elsewhere in the north and the campaign needs to continue in those areas."
He added: "I think it's a real sign that if there is strong enough local opposition, then it won't proceed."
Tamboran was granted a petroleum licence in 2011. It had three years to inform the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) on its decision to drill or drop the plans. In August a petrol bomb attack on the home of a Tamboran employee in Fermanagh was condemned by protesters of the controversial extraction method. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth. It creates new channels within the rock from which natural gas is extracted at higher than traditional rates.