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US oil company ignores Venezuela warning not to search for oil offshore Guyana

ExxonMobil Country Manager, Jeff Simon explaining the company’s scope of operations to President Donald Ramotar, and Natural Resources and the Environment Minister, Robert Persaud (GINA photo).

Despite a warning by Venezuela not to search for oil in a maritime area she claims as hers, United States oil giant, Exxon Mobil, will Thursday begin drilling an exploratory well in an offshore concession granted by Guyana.

Natural Resources Minister, Robert Persaud told Demerara Waves Online News that the company will commence drilling on March 5, 2015 and it would last for 60 days.

“They are all set. Everything is in place. Everything is proceeding according to schedule,” he said.

The oil rig intends to drill to a depth of more than 5,300 meters in search of crude oil in commercial quantities.

Earlier Wednesday, President Donald Ramotar and the Minister of Natural Resources were briefed by Country Manager of Esso Exploration and Production (Guyana) Limited, Jeff Simon about plans so far.

Guyana’s Foreign Ministry has since dispatched a diplomatic note to its Venezuelan counterpart, warning against any action to prevent the oil rig, Deepwater Champion, from carrying out its work in an area of the Stabroek Block known as Liza.

That note was in response to a February 26, 2015 letter by Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez Gomez to Simon warning the company not to proceed because the maritime area is the subject of a “territorial dispute.” Guyana maintains that there is a border controversy rather than a dispute.

“The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela wishes to express its strongest protest against his serious situation and, accordingly, I take this opportunity to request the cessation of such activities as they will not be acknowledged or accepted under any such circumstances, since this will constitute, moreover, a hostile violation of the Venezuela territorial space,” the Foreign Minister told Simon, who heads the local subsidiary of Exxon Mobil.

Venezuela further cautioned that it would not recognize any law or contractual obligations by third states, agencies, international financial institutions or private corporations that engages  “Guyana over the sovereignty or existing resources on the seafront of the Essequibo.”

Venezuela also fears that the drilling of oil at such depths could cause untold environmental damage. “The drilling in the mentioned sea area involves a major impact on the environment, given that the intervention in such significant depths could cause unacceptable environmental disturbances, which is prohibited by our legal framework and international agreements on environmental protection,” states the Venezuela Foreign Minister.

Rodriguez Gomez sought to justify her country’s stance that Essequibo and its maritime projection located in the Essequibo River are part of its territory. “Guyana has no valid land titles on the territory of Essequibo, including the seafront, which entitles such country to carry out projects of this magnitude,” she said.

Guyana maintains that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award is full and final settlement of the boundary between the two South American nations.