Algeria’s Sonatrach will start exploration work in neighbouring Mali by mid-2012.

A deal was signed in 2007 that will see the state-owned oil company start drilling in the Malian section of the Taoudeni basin. The area covers Algeria, Mali and Mauritania.

Progress has been slow in the region due to problems with security especially with gunmen linked to the terrorist group Al-Qaeda.

Sonatrach is the largest company in Africa.