70 days after the Linc Energy trial started, prosecutor Ralph Devlin (second from left) leaves the court.
70 days after the Linc Energy trial started, prosecutor Ralph Devlin (second from left) leaves the court. John Weekes

What a fraccing mess: Linc Energy guilty on all charges

FAILED coal gasification company Linc Energy has been found guilty of causing massive environmental damage in Queensland's agricultural heartland.

After jurors delivered their verdicts on Monday, a conservation and farmers alliance said Linc should never have been allowed to operate.

Linc, in liquidation, was not in court to defend the charges of causing serious environmental harm at Chinchilla between 2007 and 2013.

But five not guilty pleas were entered on January 29, when the trial started.

Nobody was in the dock and no defence lawyers were in Brisbane District Court during the 10-week unusual trial.

Linc burnt coal underground to create gas, a process that has since been outlawed.

The Queensland Government banned the practice in 2016 after Linc was charged with these offences, and years after Cougar Energy's trial site was shut down.

Years of company documents were dug up for the Linc trial, including internal emails suggesting the company was warned about risks to groundwater.

Jurors heard Linc's underground coal gasification team told the company board in 2009 a site called G2 was abandoned in a "clumsy" way, with water pumped back into wells in attempts to extinguish gasification.

Meanwhile, already permeable coals were made even more permeable through fraccing, former Linc gas operator Ray Cowie added in a report later that year.

Linc will be sentenced on May 11.

After the verdicts, the Lock the Gate alliance blamed a "weak regulatory regime" for the damage.

Lock the Gate claimed Linc's business was a "dangerous, toxic industry that never should have been approved in the first place".

Lock the Gate's Carmel Flint said Linc's activities spawned a "terrible outcome for landholders who have been left to live with the mess".

Last month, it was reported the clean-up bill for contamination at the Linc site could reach almost $80 million. -NewsRegional


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