Bad news for oil explorers looking at Nagaland

Vol 9, PW 6 (30 Jun 05) People & Policy

Oil companies working or planning to work in Indias troubled northeast will be worried at the latest turn of events in the eight-year-old peace talks between Delhi and rebels from Nagaland.

Negotiations between the home ministry and the outlawed National Socialist Council of Nagaland look as if they are about to break down. NSCN general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah tells this report.

I have asked the Naga people to be prepared for the worst. Muivah said the Indian government is deliberately stalling without trying to resolve the issues behind the discord.

We are as serious about peace today as we were about war with India until a few years ago, adds Muivah. But Delhi is taking us for granted.

Most concerned at this development is ONGC, which is hoping for peace talks to succeed so it can return to Nagalands Wokha district where it discovered the Champang oilfield in 1973. If talks break down one of the first things NSCN will do is to stop us from drilling, said a senior ONGC official.

NSCN spokesman Kraibo Chawang adds: If we go back to war with India, we will throw out all Indian companies from Naga areas. Foreign companies will be allowed to operate only if they pay us tax.

No foreign or private oil companies operate in Nagaland today. Oil India, ONGC, Assam Oil Company, Canoro Resources, Premier Oil and Hindustan Oil Exploration all have operations in neighbouring Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Nagaland is estimated to hold prognosticated hydrocarbon resources of 554m tonnes. Of this, only 17m tonnes have been converted into in-place reserves.

The recoverable portion of this in place volume is 4m tonnes and out of this, 1.2m tonnes was produced by ONGC till 1994 when it left Nagaland after threats to its staff from Naga militants. ONGC has so far drilled 35 wells in Nagaland 29 of them in Champang.

Twenty-one of these are oil bearing and two are gas bearing.

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