Stratex International Plc plans to start drilling for gold and silver in the second quarter of this year in northern Ethiopia, the London-listed gold exploration firm said on Monday.

The company has said it is bullish about the prospects for finding gold in the Horn of Africa nation.

Ethiopia exported gold worth $71.1 million in the first quarter of the 2010/11 fiscal year, while earnings almost tripled to $300 million in 2009/2010 from $105 million in 2008/2009.

Stratex said it had acquired 75 percent of the AbiAdi project in northern Ethiopia from Ethiopia's Loz-Bez Ltd.

David Hall, executive director of Stratex, said geologists had found a significant corridor of high-grade gold-silver deposits.

By 1551 GMT shares of Stratex in London were up 7.5 percent at 8.9 pence.

Spot gold rose as high as $1,403.38 an ounce on Monday and was bid at $1,402.80 an ounce at 1454 GMT, against $1,388.58 late in New York on Friday. Silver hit a high of $33.59 and was later at $33.52 an ounce against $32.46.