Hostages have reportedly been killed at a natural-gas plant in Algeria. France has intervened in the fighting in neighbouring Mali, one of its former colonies. Libya responded by ratcheting up security at its oil fields and Egypt may do the same. Resource companies with operations in Algeria and Mali, however, are staying calm, saying their operations are unaffected.
Multinational companies are accustomed to working in global hot spots, and outfits such as Canada’s Talisman Energy Inc. and South Africa’s AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. are among those with projects in either Algeria and Mali who say their work has not been interrupted.
Militants are able to easily disrupt businesses such as oil and gas by targeting infrastructure or by making regions so unstable companies shut down operations because of safety concerns, even when battles are far from projects or the companies are not the specific target.
Islamic militants captured 132 foreign workers at an Algerian natural-gas plant earlier this week. The state news agency reported 12 foreign and local workers have been killed in the fighting, according to the Associated Press. About 100 have been freed, the agency said Friday. Some of the militants have also been killed. Mali’s military is fighting its own extremists, and France has intervened in that war.
The natural-gas plant under siege in Algeria is operated by Britain’s BP PLC. It plans to fly out some non-essential staff, according to Bloomberg News. Its partner, Norway’s Statoil ASA, is also pulling out employees. Spain’s Cespa is also evacuating employees in the area, according to news reports.
“Given the importance of Algerian exports to Europe, and particularly Italy, the major players are vigilant,” Nicolo Sartori, energy and defence analyst at Rome’s Institute of International Affairs, told Bloomberg News. “If an internal conflict should erupt in Algeria, then we’d be looking at a different scenario that would pose a serious risk to gas supply.”
AngloGold, which mines in Mali, said none of its employees have left the country and it continues to operate normally.
“We keep a very, very close eye on security developments,” Stewart Bailey, senior vice-president of investor relations at AngloGold, said in an interview Friday. Most of AngloGold’s employees in Mali are from the African country, which is largely dependent on energy. The company has a detailed contingency plan should fighting escalate, Mr. Bailey said, but would not reveal details. The fighting in Mali is about 700 kilometres from AngloGold’s operations, he said.
Calgary-based Talisman said it instituted a travel ban on Algeria, where it has a single representative. It does not operate its energy project there, and contractors do the work, said spokeswoman Phoebe Buckland. Talisman’s global security team is monitoring the situation. Its joint-venture project is about 400 kilometres from the heart of Mali’s troubles.
Montreal’s SNC-Lavalin said its Algerian work site has not been affected. In Mali, it is helping women in agribusinesses in two parts of the country. Shea-nut plantations in the south are unaffected, while a shallots business in a war-torn zone has been disrupted. “The farmers continue to grow their produce as best they can, but we no longer go on the terrain because it is too risky,” said Véronique Doyon, vice-president, rural development, SNC-Lavalin Environment.