The investment into coal seam gas projects is enormous. Try and get your head around the following figures:
SANTOS GNLG project $18.5 billion
QGC QCLNG project $20.4 billion
Origin APLNG project $23 billion
Arrow $15 billion
Photo sourced The Land, Shine lawyers, Glen Martin & Peter Shannon
Landowners would have to be naïve to believe that these multinational companies aren’t protecting this investment and that they will be looking after their own interests, not those of the landowner.
These are the top ten tactics and tricks used to manipulate the landowners into signing an agreement to allow the companies to proceed with these massive investments with minimal impediment for the coal seam gas company.
1. Appoint and train the right land liaison officers. They will often be people that the landowner can relate to; that they don’t feel uncomfortable around. Most of the land liaison officers will not have had all the information about the project disclosed to them as well but their role is to get the landowner on side and engender trust.
2. Broadly describe the project activities, reluctantly give any detail and avoid mentioning of any impacts. The overall project is not disclosed but broken down to stages or individual activity. Non-disclosure creates problems for the landowner in that they don’t know the full impacts when they enter negotiation and hinders planning for future farm management.
3. Conquer and Divide. Refuse to deal with neighbouring farmers who wish to negotiate collectively. Try and keep farmers from any outside support and then having isolated them try and use peer pressure such as saying your neighbour has signed up.
4. Take every opportunity to bag lawyers; imply that lawyers are only in it for the money and that the money is better off in the landowner’s pocket. Offer a token lawyer fee to the landowners as an enticement not to consult with a lawyer. Landowners need to keep in mind that contracts are not prepared by the CSG companies for their benefit.
5. If the landowner retains a lawyer actively use the land liaison officer to keep open a separate line of communication to try and gain concessions from the landowner without the lawyer’s knowledge and ability to give advice.
6. Try and make the landowner to feel obliged to cooperate with the company. Do favours for the landowner and also attain small seemly inconsequential commitments from the landowner. Work on the bush ethic that your word is your bond but landowners will later learn that any verbal agreement made by the company representatives is worthless.
7. Use consultants and junior employees with no real authority. If verbal enticements are made move them on or terminate their employment so that the company can later distance itself from fulfilling any verbal undertaking. Keep the landowner from contact with more senior management.
8. Make use of time to its greatest advantage. Common tactic is to create urgency to a completed agreement; hustle the landowner along, prevent from giving the agreement any depth of thought, imply that the landowner is selfishly holding up an important project. Another trick is to have short deadlines that include public holidays and the Christmas, New Year break when advisors such as lawyers, accountants and valuators are most likely not available.
9. Move to a mining register conference as soon as possible to apply pressure and intimidate the landowner to sign up. If the landowner resists the pressure by the CSG company threaten to take them to the land court.
10. Close the deal. The CSG company will have the land liaison officers go to great lengths to get a signature on a contract. They may travel great distances or pay for flights for an absentee landowner to sign up.
These ten points were adapted from a presentation given by Glen Martin of Shine Lawyers at a CSG information seminar at Wandoan on the 4th December 2013.Related articles