Taoudeni basin
The Taoudeni Basin is a major geological formation in West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

 named after the Taoudenni
Taoudenni is a remote salt mining center in the desert region of northern Mali, north of Timbuktu. The salt is dug by hand from the bed of an ancient salt lake, cut into slabs and transported either by truck or by camel to Timbuktu. The camel caravans from Taoudenni are some of the last that...

 village in northern Mali. It covers large parts of the West African craton
West African craton
The West African craton is one of the five large masses, or cratons, of the Precambrian basement rock of Africa that make up the African Plate, the others being the Kalahari craton, Congo craton, Saharan Metacraton and Tanzania craton. These land masses came together in the late Precambrian and...

 in Mauritania
Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb and West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest...

 and Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

. It is of considerable interest due to its possible reserves of oil.

The Taoudeni is the largest sedimentary basin in Northwest Africa, formed during the mid-late Proterozoic
The Proterozoic is a geological eon representing a period before the first abundant complex life on Earth. The name Proterozoic comes from the Greek "earlier life"...

. It continued to subside until the mid-Paleozoic
The Paleozoic era is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic eon, spanning from roughly...

 age, when Hercynian deformation and uplift occurred. It contains up to 6000 m of Late Precambrian
The Precambrian is the name which describes the large span of time in Earth's history before the current Phanerozoic Eon, and is a Supereon divided into several eons of the geologic time scale...

 and Paleozoic sediments. Exploratory drilling since the 1980s has found indications of petroleum in the Late Precambrian, Silurian
The Silurian is a geologic period and system that extends from the end of the Ordovician Period, about 443.7 ± 1.5 Mya , to the beginning of the Devonian Period, about 416.0 ± 2.8 Mya . As with other geologic periods, the rock beds that define the period's start and end are well identified, but the...

 and Late Devonian
The Devonian is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic Era spanning from the end of the Silurian Period, about 416.0 ± 2.8 Mya , to the beginning of the Carboniferous Period, about 359.2 ± 2.5 Mya...

Sediments are thicker in the western half of the basin.

The government of Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world, is eager to create an oil industry. Companies that have been exploring in the area include Baraka Petroleum, Sonatrach
Sonatrach is an Algerian government-owned company formed to exploit the hydrocarbon resources of the country. Its diversified activities cover all aspects of production: exploration, extraction, transport, and refining...

, Eni
Eni S.p.A. is an Italian multinational oil and gas company, present in 70 countries, and currently Italy's largest industrial company with a market capitalization of 87.7 billion euros , as of July 24, 2008...

, Total S.A.
Total S.A.
Total S.A. is a French multinational oil company and one of the six "Supermajor" oil companies in the world.Its businesses cover the entire oil and gas chain, from crude oil and natural gas exploration and production to power generation, transportation, refining, petroleum product marketing, and...

, Woodside and China National Petroleum Corporation
China National Petroleum Corporation
China National Petroleum Corporation is a state-owned fuel-producing corporation and the largest integrated oil and gas company in the People's Republic of China...

. However, the remote location and hostile environment of the Sahara
The Sahara is the world's second largest desert, after Antarctica. At over , it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as Europe or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean...

desert would make extraction expensive.
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