Niger has awarded a production-sharing contract to a UK-based firm called Savannah Petroleum as it seeks to attract a broader range of investors into its nascent oil industry.
Niger, one of Africa's newest oil producers, began pumping oil in 2011 as part of a $5bn deal with China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) [CNPET.UL] to develop the Agadem block.
The country is expected to export around 80 000 barrels per day via a pipeline through neighbouring Chad and Cameroon from 2016.
"In a cabinet meeting on Friday, a decree was adopted approving the production-sharing contract between Niger and Savannah Petroleum for blocks R1 and R2," said a government statement issued late on Friday.
"These two blocks represent 50% of the Agadem block, for which CNPC was given exclusive oil exploration rights in 2007," it added. It did not say if the award of the production contract would affect the earlier exploration deal.
Sources close to the oil ministry said the new contract was part of a broader policy to promote the sector and denied there were any problems with CNPC.
In 2012, Niger awarded nine production-sharing contracts to five firms based in Nigeria, Australia and Bermuda.