Namibia's government says it will stop issuing licenses for companies to explore for oil and gas toward the end of this year.

The government news agency NAMPA quotes Mining Commissioner Immanuel Mulunga as saying he still expects major oil companies to come to Namibia using existing licenses. Mulunga said his office still is processing a large number of new applications for areas with low prospects.

He said the government had started its open licensing system in 1999 but now is shutting it down because it has too many companies exploring its coast line.

Mulunga said Namibia has attracted a "critical mass" of international oil companies and has issued 41 oil and gas exploration licenses.