LUSAKA, June 27 (Reuters) - Pan-African firm Oranto Petroleum said on Wednesday it would start exploring for oil in Zambia after it was awarded two blocks, its first investment in the southern African nation.
Zambia does not produce oil, but the government says soil samples sent to European laboratories have shown good traces of crude.
Under the agreement, Oranto will hold a 90 percent stake in the two blocks and will be required to conduct geological and geophysical studies over two years.
“Oranto Petroleum is committed to an aggressive work programme to increase the levels of prospectivity in one of the world’s last true frontier markets,” it said in a statement.
British company Tullow Oil last year started exploring for oil and gas in Zambia, Africa’s No.2 copper producer, as the country pushes to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on the industrial metal.
Copper mining earns Zambia more than 70 percent of its foreign exchange but Lusaka has been trying to move into other commodities to insulate itself from price shocks. (Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by James Macharia and Mark Potter)