Coal seam gas concerns damp fond farewell for Santos head

Outgoing Santos chairman Peter Coates' last annual meeting address was hijacked by questioning of the company's coal seam gas operations.

Outgoing Santos chairman Peter Coates' last annual meeting address was hijacked by questioning of the company's coal seam gas operations.

Mr Coates' hopes for a fond farewell quickly evaporated due to persistent questions by farmers and shareholders at the Adelaide meeting. "We do recognise that there is community concern around coal seam gas," said Mr Coates, who is stepping down to take on an executive role at international commodities trader Glencore.

"And we recognise that we have to do a better job with demonstrating to the public that coal seam gas operations can have a positive impact on farming, and minimal and sometimes [a] positive impact on water."

Farmers in the Gunnedah Basin in NSW voiced concern the company's mining could pollute aquifers.

Financial analysts have also warned that rising costs, which risked making the Gunnedah project marginal, were being exacerbated by community objections.

Santos has also been in the crosshairs of environmental groups after ABC's Four Corners exposed the environmental approvals process for its $US18.5 billion Gladstone LNG venture in Queensland as being flawed and unduly influenced by the company. Santos has rejected the program's claims and Mr Coates has implored the industry to focus on the science of coal seam gas mining, rather than the emotion.

Mr Coates will be succeeded by long-time director Ken Borda.