24/08/08 (B462) Bloomberg / La société TITAN, propriété du milliardaire texan, Nelson Bunker Hunt, gagne un appel d’offre en Ethiopie pour l’exploration des gisements de Gaz et de Pétrole / Titan Resources Corp., owned by U.S. billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt, won agreements to explore two areas in Ethiopia for oil and gas, the Mines Ministry said. (En Anglais)

The Dallas, Texas-based company will invest as much as $60 million to explore tracts of Ethiopia’s eastern Ogaden basin and the northern Blue Nile basin, Abiy Hunegnaw, director of petroleum operations at the Addis Ababa-based ministry, said in a telephone interview yesterday. The two blocks combined cover an area larger than 100,000 square kilometers (38,610 square miles), Hunegnaw said. Titan and Ethiopia agreed to a 25-year production-sharing agreement.

« We are very lucky to have them, » Hunegnaw said.

Exploration in Ethiopia’s eastern Ogaden region was suspended in April 2007 after separatist rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front attacked an exploration team for China’s Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau, killing 74 people. ZPEB was working under contract for Malaysia’s state-owned oil company, which controls three exploration zones in the Ogaden.

Hunegnaw said he was confident exploration will resume in the region in the near future.

« Hopefully in one to two months operations will restart, » he said. « We are doing our best to find some contractors. »

Ethnic Somali rebels from the ONLF are seeking independence for the arid region of eastern Ethiopia, and have warned foreign oil firms not to explore in the area. The April attack triggered an Ethiopian counteroffensive that has left much of the region under martial law and spurred reports of human rights violations by the Ethiopian army. Aid workers and journalists have been barred from the region.

Other companies with exploration licenses in the Ogaden include Sweden’s Lundin Petroleum AB, Netherlands-based Pexco Exploration, and South West Energy, an Ethiopian-owned company registered in Hong Kong.

In the most famous attempt to corner the silver market in late 1970s, Hunt and his brother William hoarded the metal and forced the price to jump from to $50 an ounce to $6 in 1980. Eight years later, they were convicted of trying to manipulate the market.