Non-Renewable Natural Resources Minister Wilson Pastor said he expects oil output in Ecuador to rise to up to 530,000 barrels per day, an increase of between 4.2 percent and 5.2 percent, in 2013.

He said at a press conference Tuesday that oil production in November averaged 505,000 bpd and estimated that it will climb to an average of 510,000 bpd by the end of December.

Average output for all of 2012 will come in at 504,000 bpd, according to Pastor, who said he expects Ecuador will reach its target of producing 525,000-530,000 barrels per day next year.

The average annual price of exported Ecuadorian oil has exceeded $93 per barrel in 2012, he said.

The minister said companies interested in Ecuador's 11th oil licensing round, in which contracts for fields in the southern Amazon will be auctioned off, should start coming forward with bids in early 2013.

Those fields contain between 370 million and 1.6 billion barrels of heavy crude, the Non-Renewable Natural Resources Ministry says.

Although indigenous groups have expressed concern about the potential environmental impacts of new oil drilling activity, Pastor said the exploratory activity in that region would not involve the building of roads or deforestation.

Pastor said none of the blocks "is in reserved areas, in national parks, nor in buffer zones or protected rainforests. They are areas where by law exploratory activity can take place."

But the president of Ecuarunari, one of Ecuador's largest indigenous groups, slammed the bidding process at a protest last week in Quito.

"The goal is to plunder all our natural resources. The whole environment will be damaged, rivers, jungle contaminated," Delfin Tenesaca told Efe last Wednesday.

Referring to prior consultations with Indians, he said the government "has spoken with ones that are closest, friendliest with Alianza Pais," referring to the political movement that President Rafael Correa heads.

Companies have until May 30 to submit their bids and fee-based service contracts are to be signed in September.

The government expects bidders to invest between $1 billion and $1.2 billion in this oil round, in which three blocks have been exclusively set aside for state companies.

Pastor said Tuesday that state-run firms from Chile, Peru, Colombia, Turkey, Vietnam and China have shown an interest in partnering with Ecuadorian state oil firm Petroamazonas to develop those fields. EFE