MELBOURNE, May 15 (UPI) -- British energy company BP said it expects to get consent from the Australian government to look for oil in a frontier area off the southern coast by year's end.
Spokesman for BP operations in Australia Jamie Jardine told Bloomberg News that it expects to get approval to drill in the deep waters in the Great Australian Bight, off the country's southern coast.
"We believe it to be a prospective area," Jardine said. "It is unexplored and as always in these unexplored areas you need to drill to unlock the geology."
BP in 2011 was awarded four petroleum exploration permits by the Australian government after submitting bids the previous year. It said then that it expected to start its drilling program by this year or next.
Jardine said the first stage of the program should cost around $600 million.
Environmental groups have expressed concern about developing the offshore region. Most of the species in the area are unique to the region.
BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 raised concerns about exploration campaigns in deep waters. BP said it's consulted "broadly" with regulators to assess the environmental risk of working offshore Australia.