ISLAMABAD: The Balochistan government announced on Friday it will lift a ban on all new projects of oil and gas exploration across the province.
"Our negotiations with Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL), Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) along with some international exploration companies are in progress in order to lift the ban," Anwarul Haq Kakar, a spokesperson for the provincial government, said.
Devolution under 18th Amendment: Who deals with exploration now?
In July 2015, former Balochistan chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch imposed a ban on new projects of oil and gas exploration in the entire province in order to press the federal government for the devolution of petroleum and natural resources in accordance with the 18th Amendment of the Constitution.
Kakar expressed confidence that issues, including the ban, and disputes with national as well as foreign companies which hindered explorations would be resolved in the coming weeks.
"The provincial government is in a mood to restart exploration across the entire province," he said. "We want to restart exploration on full scale of all the new projects."
The government spokesperson said the first meeting between the provincial authorities and exploration companies had a positive outcome and the ground has been prepared for further negotiations.
On January 21, 2014, the Ministry of Petroleum, after taking all provinces on board for finalising a model petroleum concession agreement and model exploration licence, had awarded 50 blocks on provisional basis to nine exploration and production companies.
Of these, 21 blocks were in Balochistan, 15 in Punjab, six in Sindh and eight in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). In February 2014, the ministry had signed 28 agreements.
Oil, gas firms win eight more exploration licences
Further, in March 2014, the government executed 15 more petroleum concession agreements and 15 exploration licenses, including those in Balochistan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Punjab districts with OGDCL.
According to a statement issued by the ministry of petroleum, the agreements given included Blocks 2564-2 (Parkini Block-A), 2763-5 (South Kharan), 2764-3 (Palantak), 2564-5 (Rasmalan West), 2865-3 (Kharan-3), 2561-1 (Gwadar), 3169-2 (Zhob), 2566-5 (Bela North), 2764-2 (Rakhshan), 3066-5 (Bostan), 2866-3 (Khuzdar North), 3370-14 (Tirah), 3171-3 (Khiu), 3273-4, 3070-17 (Layyah), and (Warnali) 3273-4 with the OGDCL.
These allotments irked the provincial governments of K-P and Balochistan. The concerned governments were of the opinion that their prior consent was necessary, under 18th Amendment for the allotment of blocks as those blocks were located in their provinces.
The ministry; howoever, did not agree with the remarks and maintained that provinces were taken on board before finalising the allotment.
Unsatisfied with the ministry's reply, the government of Balochistan adopted its own policy for exploration companies. Obtaining a no-objection certificate (NoC) from the chief minister was made essential for all exploration companies before initiating exploration operations. The policy created obstacles for the companies.
Govt signs 15 exploration licences, concession agreements with OGDCL
Referring to this policy, Kakar said, "The issue of NoC and other related matters will be addressed during the next meetings with exploration companies.’’
"We will soon be able to adopt a new policy for the purpose," he said, adding that providing safety and security is not a serious matter anymore as the law and order situation is improving rapidly in the province.
Meanwhile, negotiations are also in progress between the federal ministry of petroleum and the government of Balochistan on the implementation of the 18th Constitutional amendment, Kakar also said.
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