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Miner Claims It's All Peace In Land Of Punt
By Jamie Freed
Sydney, Australia, March 6, 2006 – RANGE Resources has attempted to quell investor concerns about its latest exploration play, claiming Somalia's semi-autonomous state of Puntland contains a wealth of minerals and few security problems.
The Australian-listed explorer took issue with a story in the Herald last week that referred to a border skirmish between Puntland and the neighboring state of Somaliland.
"There is not, from a company perspective, a 'violent' border dispute between Puntland and Somaliland," Range told the stock exchange.
The company also denied sending teams into the disputed area, contradicting statements company secretary Peter Landau made to the Herald last week.
Neither Mr. Landau nor executive directors Jim Marinis and Mike Povey could be reached for comment on Friday.
In its statement to the stock exchange, Range said its exploration teams had confirmed that Puntland contained gold, coal, lead and silver prospects based on visits to former mines.
Range has the right to 50.1 per cent of all mineral and petroleum exploration and development in Puntland, and is looking for joint venture partners to help develop its projects.
Range signed the deal with Puntland's government last year and insists the state and neighboring Somaliland have been "secure and stable for some years with democratic elections being utilized to elect parliamentary representatives".
But a report from the BBC last week suggested Puntland was not immune to violence or the threat of a coup.
The BBC website said gunmen loyal to Puntland's planning minister entered the parliament building before being forced out by security forces.
Two militiamen and a civilian were killed.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has warned against all travel to Somalia and does not maintain an embassy in the country.
Asked whether the same warning applied to the state of Puntland, a DFAT spokeswoman said: "The travel advice for Somalia reflects our best knowledge over the safety and security of the country overall.
"If we had advice the threat differed in specific regions, that would be reflected in the travel advisory."
Regions are not differentiated in DFAT's travel advisory for Somalia.
DFAT could not comment on whether an agreement with the Puntland government would be considered binding, because the state has not declared independence from Somalia's central government.
Range rose 0.1c to 4.2c on Friday.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald