BAMAKO (Reuters) - Mali's government has cancelled about a dozen petroleum exploration agreements in its Taoudeni and Nara basins awarded by a previous administration, citing various offences by firms who held the concessions, a cabinet statement said.
The decision to cancel the agreements follows another by Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's government in July to annul some 130 mining licences so as to reissue them to investors with the ability to pursue explorations, it said.
The government said lack of research by companies for a period of one year, non-payment of taxes and royalties, and carrying out research outside permitted zones were some of the reasons for the cancellations of the petroleum agreements.
"The cancellation will help to clean up the petroleum registry," Mali mines minister Boubou Cisse said in cabinet statement on Friday.
"The cancelled blocs will revert to the state and may be awarded to other companies with the financial and technical capacity required to carry out explorations," he added.
Some of companies concerned includes PetroPlus Angola which operated bloc A1 and B1 in Taoudeni. New Catalyst Capital's bloc 4 in Taoudeni and its production and sharing agreement; Nigeria's Oranto Petroleum's bloc 12 in Nara, and Bermuda-registered Afex Global's bloc 13 in Nara.
The companies were not immediately available to comment.
Mali is Africa third biggest gold producer after South Africa and Ghana. The government is trying to diversify its source of revenues by attracting investors to other sectors such as iron ore and bauxite mining and petroleum production.
Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo and Adama Diarra; Writing by Bate Felix, editing by William Hardy