MORONI, March 19 (Reuters) - Comoros has awarded oil and gas exploration licences to two consortiums to search for petroleum in six offshore blocks, the Indian Ocean island nation’s energy minister said on Wednesday.
Africa’s eastern seaboard has become a hotspot in the hunt for hydrocarbons following massive gas finds in Mozambique and Tanzania and substantial oil discoveries in Uganda and neighbouring Kenya.
Abdou Nassur said licences for three blocks were awarded jointly to privately owned Kenya-based Bahari Resources Ltd and Discover Exploration Comoros BV, a unit of UK-based Discover Exploration.
Mauritius-based Safari will explore another three blocks totalling 17,697 square km (6,833 square miles) in partnership with Western Energy.
Comoros, which recently demarcated 40 blocks, shares a maritime boundary with Mozambique but is hitherto unexplored. Its parliament approved the contracts late on Monday.
“Many companies want to position themselves in the phase of research and exploration,” said Nassur.
Comoros first awarded Bahari Resources an exploration block in 2012, as well as a contract to undertake a phased seismic and drilling programme within the licensed area and carry out a regional study of all Comoran territory for the government.
The latest contract overrides the 2012 accord, Comoros said, without saying why.
Comoros, between Madagascar and southern Africa, has a turbulent history with some 20 coups, some attempted, since declaring independence from France in 1975.
Under Comoran law, parliament must approve oil deals signed by government. The authorities say this is aimed at improving transparency.
Lawmaker Ibrahim Ali Mzimba said it was necessary to monitor budget allocations arising from funds raised during the research phase. He proposed that “a portion of the premiums will be used to support young people seeking their first job”. (Reporting by Ahmed Ali Amir in Moroni; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Richard Lough and Louise Ireland)