North Australia Weekly Digest – 14/06/13

The Australian
Richard Sellers, director-general of Western Australia’s Department of Mines and Petroleum, has defended the environmental record of the shale gas industry. While there has been concern raised regarding fracking practices, Sellers noted these methods had been used for decades in Western Australia with no environmental issues.
The US Energy Information Agency has released a report this week claiming that shale-based resources increase the world’s total potential oil reserves by 11 per cent and natural gas by 47 per cent. According to the report, Australia is not inside the top six countries, in terms of volume, with commercially recoverable shale resources.
Ernst & Young’s annual “Business risks facing mining and metals” report has found that major mining companies could be sacrificing their long-term health in order to meet the short-term focus on returns to shareholders, showing that capital allocation and access has surged in the past 12 months to become the highest perceived risk for mining executives.
An expert on the Chinese resource industry, Miachel Komesaroff, predicts the coal price in China is unlikely to bounce back for five years or more following its 24 percent drop over the past 18 months. Economist Ross Garnaut echoed these comments, saying that any growth would be slower than previously experienced.
The Australian Financial Review
Former Santos chief executive John Ellice-Flint has expressed shock at the extensive regulations governing drilling in Queensland, slamming the “overhang” of onerous legislation from the previous government. “That made it burdensome for the regulators to regulate and for the industry to actually learn how to deal with it. It’s just bogged the whole industry down,” Ellice-Flint said
BHP Billiton has completed the sale of its stake in Woodside Petroleum’s Browse LNG project in Western Australia to PetroChina for $US1.63 billion. The deal gives PetroChina an 8.33 per cent stake in the East Browse venture and a 20 per cent holding in the West Browse venture, despite the project being shelved in April.
West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has expressed confidence that a breakthrough has been achieved for the $6 billion Oakajee port and rail project in the mid-west of the state. Barnett believes the views of Chinese and Japanese interests have been strengthened, but admits that drop in iron or price may provide further problems.
The West Australian
The WA government will subsidies exploratory minerals and petroleum drilling across the state to the tune of $7.2 million. The program provides co-funding of up to 50 per cent of direct drilling costs
Focus Minerals has closed its second mining operation in as many months this week, sacking a further 22 workers. The closure at the Mount underground gold mine near Widigiemooltha follows on from the shut down at its Laverton operations last month, which cost 50 jobs.
A survey by WestBusiness of WA mining companies shows that over 3000 jobs have disappeared from the industry this financial year, highlighting  the major slowdown that is occurring in the state’s economy. The cuts come despite two of the State’s biggest developments, the Chevron-led $US52 billion Gorgon ($55.1 billion) and $US29 billion Wheatstone LNG ventures, approaching their peak construction periods and soaking up much of the State’s available labour.