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Total Plans to Resume Exploration in South Sudan’s Block B

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Total SA, France’s biggest oil company, said it plans to resume exploration work in South Sudan’s Block B.

The company, based in Paris, will submit a “preparatory work program” to South Sudanese authorities for their approval, spokesman Florent Segura said in an e-mailed response to questions yesterday. South Sudanese Oil Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau didn’t answer his mobile phone when called for comment today.

Total holds a 32.5 stake in Block B, which covers most of Jonglei, an eastern state bordering Ethiopia that has been wracked by ethnic violence. The United Nations says more than 1,000 people were killed in battles between the Murle and Lou Nuer tribes in 2011, including a series of attacks that began late in December.

“The group is monitoring the situation on a permanent basis in the Block B area to ensure the safety of its personnel and contractors as soon as operations resume,” Segura said.

Last month, Dau said his government would begin contract negotiations with companies holding concessions on unexploited blocks, including Total. On Jan. 31, the secretary-general of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, Pagan Amum, told reporters that Total’s vice president had recently visited Juba and that other company officials were there.

Total signed an exploration and production-sharing agreement with the government of Sudan in 1980, before suspending exploration in 1985 because of “escalating insecurity in the region, related to the civil war,” according to the company’s website.

South Sudan took control of about three-quarters of Sudan’s output of 490,000 barrels of oil a day when it gained independence in July. The crude is pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. And India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jared Ferrie in Juba via Nairobi at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

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