- Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has announced the discovery of "very large quantities" of oil onshore and offshore. The announcement comes as a surprise as it now is one year since the last known international oil company was told to leave The Gambia.
In a televised speech, the Gambian President said he was "pleased to announce that oil has been discovered in the Gambia." According to Mr Jammeh, a comprehensive study had been conducted both onshore and offshore, which had concluded "that there exists oil in the Gambia, in very large quantities."
President Jammeh added that, based on the conclusion of this study, one soon was to "start experimenting" at the sites of the discoveries. "The country will be a rich nation soon," the Head of State promised his countrymen, though adding that people needed to stay calm and continue to pursue their businesses.
The speech promising a new wealth to impoverished Gambians however did not mention who had been involved in the study and the explorations or who was to conduct the upcoming "experiments". The Gambia does not have a developed upstream oil industry.
Since 1999, the Australia-based oil company Fusion Oil has been the main driving force in oil explorations in The Gambia. Contacted by afrol News, however, a spokesperson of Fusion Oil said the company had relinquished its permit to the Gambian government last year, or "actually, they didn't renew it."
At Fusion Oil's Perth offices, the spokesperson was not informed about the oil finds announced by President Jammeh on Gambian television. The company further had no information to whether other international companies had entered into oil exploration in The Gambia. Any such involvement was not known to other oil industry sources contacted by afrol News.
Except for Mr Jammeh's oil discovery statement, so far no oil or gas resources have been discovered in The Gambia so far. Small scale oil exploration however has been taking place offshore the country's short coastline since 1998. Fusion Oil, which explored the large Gambia Deepwater PPL block between 1999 and 2003, never reported any oil discoveries in the country.
Nevertheless, the Anglo-Australian company has always assessed the chances of finding oil offshore The Gambia as very good. The deepwater block offshore The Gambia has rock formations that "could be effective reservoirs" and belongs to the same promising geological zone as the deepwater blocks offshore Mauritania, where oil production soon is to begin.
Fusion Oil however interrupted its explorations and evaluation studies one year ago after its permit was not renewed, and the evaluation work is believed to have been continued by the Gambian government.
While it has not been possible to obtain commentaries from the government of The Gambia, the government's official website says the country is keen to attract prospectors for its possible oil fields. Further, the site says, "the government is relentlessly collecting, updating and storing the relevant seismic data and marketing the prospects to interested oil companies and businesses."
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