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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (November 16, 1999 – Radio Australia)---A new effort to drill for oil and gas in the seabed off New Caledonia will begin later this week, when an Australian oilrig arrives in Noumea.

Radio Australia Pacific correspondent Kevin McQuillan reports that if oil and gas are found in sufficient quantities, it will have a dramatic effect on the local economy.

"Drilling on the Gouaro prospect, about 160 kilometers (96 miles) northwest of Noumea, began initially in 1908. That and a later French drilling program in 1954 proved unsuccessful. But analysis of the site in 1995 has led two Australian companies to believe there may be a significant oil and gas field.

"The oil rig leaves Brisbane this morning and will arrive in Noumea in three days.

"The managing director of Perth-based Victoria Petroleum, John Kopcheff, says this time, a two-month drilling program will go down as far as 1,500 feet.

"At present, oil in New Caledonia is imported. With electricity up to five times the price it is in Australia, if there is a find, it's likely to have a significant effect on local energy prices.

(SEE: WORLD'S LARGEST GAS DEPOSITS FOUND OFF NEW CALEDONIA at http://pidp.ewc.hawaii.edu/PIReport/1999/November/11-10-08.htm)


For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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