Kampala, Uganda (Reuters) – France-based Total SA has resumed exploring for oil and gas in Uganda’s lake Albert region, the French oil major said on Tuesday, more than a month after the discovery of unexploded ordinance led it to suspend operations.
Personnel from the Uganda People’s Defence Forces personnel have assessed much of Total’s Block 1 and determined it to be safe, allowing the company to restart exploration, it said.
Block 1 is located in northern Uganda where the military fought the Joseph Kony-led Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency for nearly 20 years before ejecting the rebels from the region.
“UPDF has declared 80 percent of the northern area of Block 1 safe,” Ahlem Friga-Noy, spokeswoman for Total’s Ugandan unit, said.
“Therefore, 3D seismic activities have immediately resumed in this area, leading to a partial lifting of the force majeure.”
She said risk assessment was continuing in the remaining part of the block and that exploration activity would also resume after it is declared safe.
Uganda discovered commercial hydrocarbon deposits in the Albertine rift basin along its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006, and the government estimates reserves at 3.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
In early 2012, Total and China’s CNOOC each took a third of British explorer Tullow Oil’s exploration assets in Uganda for a total of $2.9 billion.
The Ugandan government said last month that CNOOC had won a final production licence for the Kingfisher oil field and would spend $2 billion over four years to develop it.
Total and Tullow Oil are still waiting to get their production licences.
Total declared a force majeure on Sept. 20 after finding two unexploded devices while conducting exploration.
Rebel leader Kony and his group are now believed to be roaming a remote jungle that straddles the borders of DRC, Central African Republic and South Sudan.