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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Total pays Cambodia 28 mln dollars for oil exploration: PM

French oil company Total has paid 28 million dollars for the rights to explore an area in the Gulf of Thailand, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday.

The Cambodian government, during a visit by Hun Sen to Paris, announced its decision in July last year to grant Total the right to search for oil and natural gas in the country's offshore "Block 3".

Disclosing the price paid by Total for the first phase of the search for oil in the area, Hun Sen said that eight million dollars of the money would go towards a "social fund".

"Total offered the highest (bid) among the companies," he said.

Total will pay an additional 20 million dollars if it starts drilling for oil in the offshore area, Hun Sen added.

At the same time the premier denied Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton paid a large bribe for an exploration contract in Cambodia, saying that money had also gone into a social fund.

Total "also has paid this kind of money," Hun Sen said during a meeting between the government and private sectors.

Following the discovery of oil in 2005, Cambodia was quickly feted as the region's next potential petro-state, but production has stalled as the government and Chevron appear to have failed to agree over revenue sharing.

Hun Sen said earlier this month he would terminate his country's contract with Chevron if the US energy giant does not begin oil production from offshore fields by late 2012.

Concerns have also been raised over how Cambodia -- one of the world's most corrupt countries -- would use its new-found oil and gas wealth.

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