(EnergyAsia, June 1 2012, Friday) — Australian underground coal gasification company Cougar Energy which is waging a legal battle with the Queensland government is looking for a new CEO following the resignation of embattled founding chief Len Walker.

The company said Dr Walker will remain as a board and executive director to share his expertise in underground coal gasification (UCG) as the company continues its expansion into Asia.

Cougar Energy has launched a lawsuit against Queensland’s Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) for shutting down its A$550 million UCG project near the village of Kingaroy in January 2011 following allegations that the company was using cancer-causing chemicals at the site.

“Cougar Energy continues preparation of its legal cases for hearing in the Queensland courts to pursue its rights to develop the project, and to claim damages from the Queensland Government and government officials for the decision to shut down the project with no evidence of any real or potential environmental harm being present,” the company said in a statement.

Dr Walker said: “The past few years have been extremely challenging, particularly given the political motivation evident in the shut-down of our Kingaroy plant.

“Pressing forward from this experience has only been possible because of the dedication of all of our existing staff. The appointment of a new CEO will inject new energy into the company as it expands and develops its project options in the Asian region.”

Cougar’s chairman, Malcolm McAully, said: “Len has led this company with passion and persistence through both the severe challenges of 2010, and in developing our new strategic focus over the past 12 months.

“He has been at the forefront of the international development of UCG technology for nearly 30 years. Len can now focus his energies on commercial project development, and the company can continue to benefit from his significant UCG expertise in his role as executive director.”