Metgasco head optimistic with Macfarlane at helm
A COAL seam gas company exploring the Northern Rivers plans to ride a changing tide of public sentiment, welcoming changes to the political landscape in Canberra.
Metgasco chairman Nick Heath on Wednesday welcomed comments by the new Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, that CSG in New South Wales would be a key priority for the new Abbott government.
The minister's comments come after Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently declared the nation "open for business", and the state government gave Santos approvals to drill eight new wells in the Pilliga Forest on Wednesday.
Mr Heath said he took "considerable comfort and optimism" from Mr Macfarlane's comments, welcoming the new Federal Government's "vital support" for the industry.
"There's a whole lot of things going on at present that perhaps show a turning in community sentiment, and certainly, Metgasco plans to take advantage of that change," he said.
The company has stared down a tough 12 months, suspending exploration after a community backlash over its plans to drill in the Northern Rivers, and changes to the state government's CSG regulations.
Improving business conditions led Mr Heath to issue a letter to shareholders last week which said there was confidence that "eventually value can be realised as a result of our investment in the Clarence Moreton Basin".
"We cannot define when the circumstances will be attractive for operations to recommence in NSW," the letter reads.
"We hope that there will be a steady stream of improvements over the next 12 months that will establish a more satisfactory environment."
Mr Heath said he was still unsure when work would start again in the region, but the company still had the cash reserves to continue exploration as soon as it could secure contractors.
He said the company had regular contact with both Mr Macfarlane and his state counterpart Chris Hartcher, and he was "very heartened by the support of these two gentlemen".
Despite lingering community concerns about Metgasco's operations, Mr Heath said any future plans would "get a full screening by regulators" and the company would be at pains to ensure operations "don't expose the environment to risk".
"I understand the concerns, and I know we're talking about drilling through aquifers to reach the gas, but everyone can be confident any future operations will be managed in a prudent, careful manner," he said.