05/04/2012 04:01:00 By FARMAN CHOMANI
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"It's not known whether oil can be found in these areas or not,”

RANIYA, Kurdistan Region -- The American petroleum company Hess has signed a contract with the Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Natural Resources.
The upstream oil contract allows Hess to look for oil around 27 villages in the Koya, Raniya and Shaqlawa districts of Kurdistan.
For its part, Hess has sub-contracted Chinese JJFZ Company to do oil exploration designated by the Kurdish government.
"The contact was initially given to Hess and the company subcontracted us to explore the areas covered in the contact. If weather permits, we will finish the exploration part of the contract in six months," Sheikh Dilawar Jalal, JJFZ's representative, told Rudaw.
According to local officials, if oil is found in those areas, wells will be dug and refineries built.
Hussein Ahmed, mayor of the Betwata district of Raniya, told Rudaw, ‘‘The company has built a camp in the Siktan district of Rania. It has designated several areas in our district and surrounding districts to explore for oil.”
Ahmed is ambivalent about the quality of oil in his area.
"It's not known whether oil can be found in these areas or not,” he says. “Even if found, will it be worthwhile digging wells for it? Will the oil be of good quality?”
Ahmed maintained that preliminary explorations in the area have proven the existence of oil.
The mayor says he has spoken with the oil company about compensating farmers whose lands might be affected by the explorations.
"The company promised us that they would compensate farmers," Ahmed said.
Sheikh Muhammad Haji Brayim, chief of the Siktan district, says as long as the companies compensate the residents of the area, people won’t get in the way of their explorations.
"So far, the people in our district have no issues with the company,” he says. “The company has promised to compensate us if our lands are used in their projects."
Regarding compensating villagers who live in the area, Jalal said, “We have formed a three-member committee to compensate farmers who lose their crops due to the search for oil, but there will be no compensation for lands currently not cultivated."
Jalal also denied allegations that a number of villages would have to be evacuated.
“No village will be evacuated," he said.