METGASCO has admitted to investors for the first time that community opposition to coal seam gas was disrupting its operations.
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange yesterday, Metgasco said protest action caused delays in drilling at Glenugie and also resulted in the company deferring one of its planned core wells.
"Our program started a little later than expected as a result of a range of factors which included rig availability, approvals and some protest action," CEO Peter Henderson said in the statement to the ASX.
He said: "Given the delayed start to the program, we have deferred one of the three planned core wells so that we can keep the more important lateral/pilot and conventional wells on schedule."
Activist and lecturer in law at Southern Cross University, Aidan Ricketts, who has been critical of Metgasco's failure to disclose the protests in the past, said the company had a legal obligation to ensure full "transparency" for investors.
"It's something that has been an issue for a while with Metgasco's previous statement to the market never mentioning the Lismore poll or the social movement," he said. "There is a line that is reached where a social movement represents a risk to investors and I think we have to admit Metgasco reached that line a long time ago with the size of the social movement."
While the share price fell almost 3% on the news to 17 cents, Metgasco remains upbeat about its outlook, hoping to transition from exploration to a commercial phase this year.
"Parallel with the drilling program we are seeking approvals to allow us to sell gas locally and position the business for production growth over the next few years," Mr Henderson told the ASX.
University still holds shares in Metgasco
ONE of Australia's leading universities, which is a top 20 shareholder in Metgasco, says it is still planning to sell its shares more than a year after promising to do so.
The Australian National University, which holds more than $900 million in listed and unlisted investments, holds 2.5 million shares in Metgasco.
In October 2011, the university promised to sell the stock, but hasn't.
While the stock does not represent any untoward investment behaviour by the university, it has grated on students who oppose the CSG extraction.
The issue has sparked a Freedom of Information application from a students group called the ANU Environment Collective that wants to see the stock sold.
ANU said yesterday it was still planning to sell down its shareholding in the company, but there were "few potential buyers".
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