LONDON (Reuters) - Gambia plans to market two offshore oil blocks that African Petroleum says it still legally holds, the country’s minister of justice said on Friday.
Norwegian-listed African Petroleum said in October it had launched arbitration proceedings against the Gambian government to defend its exploration rights.
Licenses for the two blocks expired in September 2016 but the oil company had been in talks with the government until earlier this year to extend the exploration period.
African Petroleum has previously said the terms of its licenses stated they remained active until the state enacted a termination procedure, which it said had not been done.
It held blocks A1 and A4 that are thought to contain up to 3 billion barrels of oil and are next to licenses in neighboring Senegal.
“We respect African Petroleum’s choice to initiate arbitration proceedings ... We will exercise our rights to market our blocks, including A1 and A4,” Gambia’s minister of justice and attorney general Abubacarr Tambadou said at an event in London.
The Gambian government said it had decided not to extend the firm’s exploration rights, citing a failure by the firm to meet its commitments.
In August, prior to the start of arbitration proceedings, the government said the two blocks were open for bids.
An official delegation from Gambia was in London on Friday to drum up interest in six offshore blocks. The government said it would send out a request for interest within the next month or so, an official said during a presentation.
Gambian Oil Minister Fafa Sanyang said the terms would be negotiable but that the state oil firm would keep a minimum 10 percent stake in the blocks.
Reporting by Julia Payne; Editing by Susan Fenton and David Evans