Jamir wants ONGC in Nagaland on his terms

Vol 3, PW 20 (27 Oct 99) Exploration & Production

Nagaland's Congress chief minister Jamir is known as "a cat with nine lives".

He has survived several assasination attempts by the state's terror movements, including a recent assasination bid in Delhi. Today his eagerness to entice ONGC back into Nagaland contrasts with his past attempts to expel them.

When ONGC first discovered oil at Champang in the Wokha district of Nagaland four years ago, local tribesmen protested that ONGC was looting local resources by carrying away huge quantities of crude in tankers. Jamir backed the tribals and told ONGC to stop work.

ONGC refused but paid the price when Naga students (allegedly acting on Jamirs orders) beat up its engineers and technicians. The outlawed National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) threatened to blow up ONGCs drilling rigs.

Jamir maintains ONGC had a license only to explore for crude oil - not to begin commercial production. ONGC tells this report commercial production never took place in Nagaland.

An official said significant quantities of crude oil were taken away by tankers for testing - but not for commercial production. "Without a pipeline, you cant consider commercial production", said a spokesman.

Nagaland is believed to have in-place reserves of 550m tonnes of oil. Before its expulsion in 1995, ONGC drilled a total of 34 hydrocarbon-bearing wells - two of which were gas bearing.

Nagaland has a sparsely scattered population of 1.2m of mainly Christian and animist tribes. A Nagaland state-appointed committee of local officials is currently preparing a report for Chief Minister Jamir on ONGCs re-entry into the state.

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