By Ed Stoddard - CAPE TOWN | (Reuters) - The break-away territory of Somaliland sees drilling for oil as possible by 2014 as three companies start exploration activities, the country's mining and energy minister said on Tuesday.
Hussein Abdi Dualeh told Reuters the three companies are Ophir Energy Plc, Australia-based Jacka Resources and Genel Energy, which is headed by former BP chief executive Tony Hayward.
Somaliand is not recognized internationally and declared independence from Somalia in 1991.
"Last year we were seen as a frontier because nothing was happening. But now the biggest exploration activities in 21 years are about to start," Dualeh told Reuters on the sidelines of an African oil conference organised by Global Pacific & Partners.
"We will be hosting Tony and his team on November 6. Ophir will have boots on the ground by December and Genel in February or March," he said.
He added that he expected drilling to commence by 2014.
The drilling and exploration at the moment will all be onshore.
The initial investments will be small change for the oil business and amount to tens of millions of dollars. But Somaliland will welcome the inflow as it has not had an easy time attracting investment.
Aside from the uncertainty that comes with its stateless status, the country is in a region known for piracy and lawlessness.
But the region is rapidly emerging as an exciting oil and gas province after discoveries in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique.
"In the oil business we don't care about politics, but about geology. Where ever the geology is good, we're here," Dualeh said.
He also said a Kenya-based private-equity firm backed by Chinese and Indian investors was developing iron ore and coal projects in its territory but he declined to name the company.
"We are hoping to start mining iron ore and coal in about 12 months time," he said.
(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; editing by Jason Neely)