Recon Africa gets the green light for more drilling

Niël Terblanché

Although there is increased pressure to shift away from fossil fuels and to move towards low-carbon energy sources such as hydropower, solar and wind, this energy transition must be done in a way that shall be fair and affordable for developing countries like Namibia.

The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism recently issued an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) to Recon Africa to drill more exploration and appraisal wells in the Kavango Basin to search for oil and gas resources.

The project situated in the Kavango West Region of Namibia was the cause of huge controversy amongst environmental activists because of the negative impact that the drilling will have on the interconnected ecosystems associated with the Kavango River.

According to Namibia’s Environmental Commissioner, Timoteus Mufeti, the approval of the ECC for Recon Africa has been done based on national laws, regulations, and structures of Government created with key responsibilities of managing various aspects of petroleum exploration and production, environmental management, water, atmospheric pollution prevention, health, and labour as well as other indirect laws linked to the accessory services and engineering works.

Mufeti confirmed that the ministry through his office has reviewed and approved ReconAfrica’s application for an Environmental Clearance Certificate to undertake the next phase of their oil and gas exploration work programme which is to drill more exploration and appraisal wells.

“The issuance of the ECC was done in accordance with the provisions of the Environmental Management Act, 2007, (Act No. 7 of 2007) as well as the EIA Regulations, 2012,” he said.

He indicated that Recon Africa as part of its progressive processes of de-risking the Kavango Sedimentary Basin (KSB), proposed to drill prioritised exploration and appraisal wells designed to confirm the existence of economically viable oil and gas resources within the delineated targets based on additional 2D seismic survey data acquisition and interpretation, airborne geophysical surveys and the stratigraphic well data sets.

“It must be noted that Namibia’s economy is primarily dependent on natural resources. The office of the Environmental Commissioner as empowered by the Environmental Management Act, 2007, (Act No. 7 of 2007) as well as the EIA Regulations, 2012 must ensure that identified and listed economic activities are cleared for possible environmental impact. This includes options of avoiding, mitigating, rehabilitating and offsetting such impacts an activity has on the environment. On this basis, to date, Namibia has managed its environmental matters very well and the trend will continue into the future,” he said.

According to Mufeti, consultation activities were undertaken during the months of January and February 2023 that focussed on the interested and affected parties, local communities including land owners and traditional authorities.

“Based on the submitted EIA and EMP Reports, the previous studies undertaken in the area since 2018, as well as the experiences, environmental monitoring by MEFT, the office of the Environmental Commissioner through a systematic assessment is convinced that the potential negative impacts to the local individual drilling sites, regions (Kavango East and West Regions), nation (Namibia), transboundary (KAZA TFCA) and global interconnected ecosystems will be low, manageable and can be mitigated,” he said.

Mufeti added that the government recognises that the country’s energy sector and energy security are strategic important pillars of achieving its sustainable development goals.

“Namibia’s energy mix policy strategy strives to strike a balance on the various sources of energy by utilising all possible and available energy sources in order to achieve our current and future, short- and long-term national development goals,” he said.

Mufeti added that there is no potential conflict between the development of the oil and gas industry and Namibia’s commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.

“The two can coexist and complement each other. Namibia is working towards reducing the effects of global warming on communities and sectors through short and long-term resilience and adaption strategies,” he said.

According to Mufeti, the commercialisation of oil and gas resources will provide much-needed resources for Namibia to be able to fight climate change on its own terms along with the international community.

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