Gas explorer Metgasco will sue the NSW government for compensation over its decision to suspend the company’s drilling licence at Bentley, in northern NSW, last year.
Metgasco has also indicated it is pushing ahead with plans to drill at its controversial Rosella site near Lismore – and it wants the government to guarantee police protection from protesters when it moves in.
The company has been in talks with the state government after energy minister Anthony Roberts yanked its Rosella licence in 2014, days before thousands of protesters were expected to form a blockade at the drill site, and up to 800 police officers were detailed to monitor their activities.
The Supreme Court in April overturned that suspension, with a judge finding procedural fairness had not been implemented.
On Tuesday, after months of compensation negotiations with the government, Metgasco managing director and CEO Peter Henderson said his company wanted to get back to business.
“We expect the government will provide all necessary police protection to allow the lawful activities to be undertaken safely and securely and we were given assurances in this respect as part of our discussions with government,” Mr Henderson said in a statement to market.
“Metgasco would have preferred to settle its claim for 2014 suspension damages with the NSW government out of court and is happy to resume good-faith discussions with government … but not at the expense of having to indefinitely suspend its business activities.”
Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said northern rivers locals would put up a fight.
“If Metgasco go back to Bentley, then the community will be there to meet them in large numbers and with determination to protect the land and water,” Mr Buckingham said.
In a statement, Mr Roberts said he would welcome the company back to the table and the government “remains ready to continue negotiations”.