Earlier this month, Sir Moi was quoted by the Townsville Bulletin as saying that Santos had signed on to the project. Santos later released an announcement to the ASX in which it stated that it was continuing its program of due diligence.
Speaking to PNGIndustryNews.net in Port Moresby last week, Botten rejected any suggestion that it would damage the ongoing negotiation process.
“No, no, not at all,” he said.
“There is constructive dialogue continuing in terms of their possible re-entry into the project. It has been going on a little while but it is certainly getting to an advanced stage.
“We remain confident that they will be a participant in the project in the near term.”
Botten said the project partners were still on target for project sanction next quarter.
“We are aiming for project sanction in the second quarter and that is a trigger for early works construction and preparation for the main construction phase. On that basis, there is a lot of work to do and it is a challenging target that we set,” he said.
“But equally if you set a target like landholding negotiations and government regulatory approvals, which put it at the third or fourth quarter this year, it will probably be the third or fourth quarter that we get it done.
“So set an aggressive target, go for it and work hard to achieve it, hopefully we can.”
In other news, the company has contracted the services of a second Russian Chinook helicopter capable of lifting up to 10 tonnes of equipment to site.
Botten said the Chinooks would assist in the transportation of drill rigs.
“It is a mark of how much expansion we are doing in terms of exploration that we are bringing a second one in,” he said.
Botten said the company had planned to spend around $A120 million on exploration in PNG this year.