But the recent spate of unseasonal rain is still holding up exploration in central Queensland.
“We are very pleased that SinoCoal Resources has secured the locally based Dynamic Drilling to undertake the drilling program,” MetroCoal chief executive Mike O’Brien said.
“While conditions at the moment are not desirable for this extensive drilling program, we will mobilise as soon as areas are considered dry enough for the two drilling rigs.”
The explorer aims to prove up between 830 million and 1.165 billion tonnes of thermal coal resources at the project, with most of it slated for longwall mining.
SinoCoal is a subsidiary of China National Coal Group.
The JV for the project formally kicked off a month ago.
Under the agreement, the Chinese coal company will get a 51% interest in the project for spending $30 million on the exploration of the tenement.
A minimum of $4 million must be spent within the first two years.
MetroCoal aims to be the first company to bring longwall mining to the Surat Basin. O’Brien was general manager of the South Bulli longwall mine in 1991-92.
MetroCoal shares are down 1c to 30.5c this morning.