The country’s National Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam) and the National Coal and Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin) signed a strategic cooperation agreement in Hanoi on July 28.

Under the agreement, both parties are committed to working closer with each other in their respective fields, particularly in energy. They agreed to exchange and share geological information about any coalfields that are discovered during exploration for oil in the Red River delta.

They will also cooperate in building an ammonium nitrate plant using gas provided by PetroVietnam to serve Vinacomin’s mining operations, as well as in developing infrastructure projects and also in real estate and finance.

On addressing the signing ceremony, PetroVietnam’s General Director Phung Dinh Thuc said that cooperation between the two groups would help boost and secure the country’s energy industry.

He said that both groups would soon start a number of important projects to research coal and gas reserves in the Red River delta basin, invest in mining for coal overseas and set up a joint stock company to import and ship coal from abroad to Vietnam to supply domestic thermo-electric power plants.

According to Vinacomin’s Chairman Doan Van Kien, the Red River Delta basin has estimated reserves of 210 billion tonnes of coal, discovered during the oil and gas exploration operations.

He said the coal reserves, that span from the continental shelf to the Nam Con Son oil field, could yield thousands of billions of tonnes.

The alliance between these two giants in natural minerals exploration and exploitation will bring huge benefits to both groups as well as the country, said Kien.

At present, coal supplies for domestic thermo-electric power plants are now an issue of concern as Vinacomin forecasts Vietnam will have to import coal from 2012./.