A FRACKING firm hoping to drill in Rotherham says the practice is safer than coal mining.
Chemical giant Ineos has met residents in the south of the borough ahead of submitting planning applications.
The international company, which has 17,000 employees, acknowledged that drilling for shale gas has caused minor tremors underground.
But officials said these were rare and too small to pose a risk to property or people.
The firm’s promotional materials say: “Fracking actually presents a lower risk of seismic activity than coal mining.”
Ineos Shale operations director Tom Pickering (pictured) said: “Putting a man down a coal shaft is like open-heart surgery. What we do is more like keyhole surgery.
“We understand that people here have such an affection for mining. The pits were world class and their heritage continues now.
“But the question you have to ask is why you would put someone down a hole again, versus getting energy that does the same thing and also gives jobs?”
Fracking - short for hydraulic fracturing - involves drilling to open fissures deep underground to extract oil or gas.
Ineos is mounting a charm offensive ahead of submitting planning applications.
Staff have held meetings in Harthill and Letwell over possible seismic testing.
And the firm has pledged six per cent of revenues to the communities where fracking takes place, which it says could run to millions of pounds.
Mr Pickering said Ineos activity could leave positive lasting impacts, adding: “We’re very pragmatic about this.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be around the table with groups of protesters.
“We feel the balance of argument stacks up. I think long and hard about what we are doing and how it can be done safely.”
Sites take six months’ preparation - including three months’ drilling - and then produce for 15 to 20 years with little disruption, Ineos said.
Commercial director Lynn Calder said: “The purpose of the six per cent is to say yes, there’s a level of disruption for a temporary period, but we think it’s going to be worthwhile and bring prosperity to areas.”
Ineos will be the first company to import shale gas to Europe from the US when ships arrive in Norway in March and in the UK in September.
But the company believes imports will not be enough to meet future needs and wants to tap into reserves here.
A spokesman said: “Shale gas offers Britain a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure economic security and growth.”