THE NSW government and Shenhua are at odds about the status of its Watermark coal mine exploration licence.
When the government bought back 51.4 per cent of the company’s expired exploration licence for $262 million in June, it said a decision on the other half of the license had not been made.
However, in a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on July 12, Shenhua said it had “reached an agreement with the NSW government in relation to partial extension of the exploration license”.
In the recent NSW Budget Estimates, Resources Minister Don Harwin said the statement Shenhua made was “not correct” and that the government was still considering Shenhua’s exploration licence renewal application.
Shadow Resources Minister Adam Searle said the government needed to make its position on Shenhua’s public statements clear.
“The Resources Minister says one thing but the company it handed $262 million to, says another; who is telling the truth?" Mr Searle asked.
“This public disagreement between Shenhua and the NSW Government on such a vital matter as whether there is already a deal in place regarding any partial renewal of the mining exploration license raises questions about the probity of the renewal process.”
A spokesperson for Mr Harwin said the minister had “never discussed with or indicated” to Shenhua that its exploration licence renewal application would be successful.
“The NSW Government received an amended renewal of the EL that has resulted in partial relinquishment of the site, not an extension,” they said.
“The Department of Planning and Environment’s Division of Resources and Geoscience are considering the renewal application.”
Shenhua has shown its keen to keep the ball rolling on the project, with the company’s vice president visiting Gunnedah in July, where he and fellow Chinese delegates met with the mayors of Gunnedah, Tamworth and the Liverpool Plains.
The company also placed job adverts for a land asset manager and a senior mining engineer in August.
The senior mining engineer would “review surveys of mineral deposits to confirm the feasibility of extracting the reserves and the design and development of the extraction process, determine the most suitable and cost effective methods of resource extraction”.
The job advertisements follows the company advertising for a drilling exploration management team in July, to dig “around 123 holes with total drilling of 5000 metres”.
Shenhua was contacted for comment.