Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Eritrea signs two off-shore oil exploration pacts

(Reuters - 4 october 2008)

Eritrea has signed two deals to explore for crude off the Red Sea state's coastline, local media said on Saturday.

Asmara is a non-oil producer, but is suspected to have petroleum and natural gas deposits.

Eritrea is also thought to be rich in gold and industrial metals. Six companies from Canada, China and Australia are already looking for metals in western and central Eritrea.

"The Government of Eritrea signed two agreements with Defba Oil Share Company on oil exploration and development," the Ministry of Information said on its Web site, www.shabait.com.

"The company would undertake oil exploration activities in two blocks of the Eritrean northern territorial waters," it added.

Asmara said Defba was set up in partnership with Eritrea and the Energy Alliance Company, without elaborating. Officials were not immediately available to give further details.

Oil exploration off Eritrea began in earnest in the 1960s, but stopped largely due to disappointing results and insecurity. Eritrea's 30-year independence struggle against Ethiopia and a 1998-2000 border war with its larger neighbour has meant that much of its natural resources remain untapped.