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    Old news but i'm sure all the followers just want to read Mauritania, Mauritania and Mauritania!.

    Friday, 2 August, 2002, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
    Oil minnow lures majors to Mauritania

    Could Mauritania one day be a major producer?

    A tiny oil minnow is luring some of the world's biggest energy firms into the little-explored seas west of Mauritania.

    It could be regarded as foolhardy, but it's all a perception of risk Peter Dolan Fusion chairman
    Italy's Agip, Australia's Woodside and Houston's Amerada Hess are amongst the firms buying into the West African discoveries of the industry newcomer.

    And Fusion is now putting the final touches to a new agreement with Amerada which will be signed "within weeks", Peter Dolan, the firm's chairman, told BBC News Online.

    The prospect of such a deal is already raising expectations about the quality of Fusion's initial findings, with growing hopes that Mauritania may prove to be as lucrative as other hotspots of oil activity in Africa. "Amerada is basically saying they recognise the prospects are good and they want to get a piece of the action," Mr Dolan said.

    From feeling to fact

    Anglo-Australian Fusion was set up as a pure exploration firm in 1997, and admits it is highly unusual with almost no industry peers.

    "We're a little bit like the wild-catters of a hundreds years ago, drilling at random in the wild-west," said Mr Dolan.

    The company exists purely to carry out the riskiest parts of the oil business, heading into unknown waters.

    Then it presents its findings to the big firms, luring them in to pay for the drilling and production phases.

    "We feel confident that there are commercially viable opportunities in Mauritania," said Mr Dolan, who built up the firm from scratch after being a consultant to the oil industry.

    "Now we've got to translate that feeling into fact."

    And doing that requires the large scale investments that only much bigger companies can afford.

    Drilling at a key well in offshore Mauritania started just days ago, with the help of Woodside and Agip.

    Perception of risk

    The firm, which has grown from a base of just three staff to 14, says it targets areas where it could be "first-movers and take a gamble".

    It now holds exploration licenses in offshore Mauritania, the Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Ghana and Gabon.

    Enormous oil reserves have already been discovered in West Africa's Angola and, more recently, Equatorial Guinea.

    Mr Dolan explains the big oil firms have a limited exploration budget and don't always have the resources to head into new areas where there is little proof of any benefits.

    And he admits that Fusion's business is one with almost no tangible assets other than knowledge.

    "It could be regarded as foolhardy but it's all a perception of risk," he says.

    And the proof that Fusion has indeed struck black gold is still years away.

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