Recon Energy Namibia will learn the outcome of its Environmental Clearance Certificate application later this month, the Minister of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta reserved judgment following the hearing of arguments both in support of and against the Environmental Commissioner’s decision to revise an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC).
The Kavango East and West Regional Conservancy and Community Forest Association, Katope Community Forest Management Committee, Muduva Nyangana Communal Conservancy Management Committee, and Ncumcara Community Forest Management Committee filed an appeal last year, challenging Recon’s clearance certificate.
Additionally, the decision of the Environmental Commissioner to grant the certificate to the Canadian oil and gas company has been appealed by The Economic and Social Justice Trust (ESJT).
The groups assert that ReconAfrica violated the rights of Namibians by using an amendment procedure to avoid public participation rather than submitting an application for a new ECC.
ReconAfrica, is currently drilling to establish commercial quantities of oil in Namibia’s northeast.
“ReconAfrica’s original ECC, issued on August 26, 2019, a Namibian holiday, was amended by the company in June 2022 to include an ambitious new 12 well drilling program. The company’s consultant restricted Namibian organizations from commenting saying only parties registered in 2019 were able to comment. The ESJT believes this clearly violates Namibians’ right to engage in the democratic process,” the Social Justice Trust said.
ReconAfrica’s ‘irregular process’, according to Rinaani Musutua of the Trust, also denies Namibians their rights, and if the precedent is allowed to stand, it restricts the government’s ability to protect environmentally sensitive areas and vulnerable communities.
Namibia’s Environmental Commissioner (EC) Timoteus Mufeti issued a renewed ECC to Canadian driller ReconAfrica on 15 June 2022.
Moreover, the trust, conservancies and associations are appealing to Shifeta to set aside the company’s operating license and for ReconAfrica to compensate those Kavango communities harmed by the company’s operations.
“The evidence shows that there was never any realistic prospect of finding commercial oil and their actual focus was to inflate the share price so that insiders could sell their shares. Financial filings show that company insiders dumped millions of shares on the open market and made hundreds of Namibian dollars doing so. The ESJT believes that harm done to Namibian communities was not done to serve development, but to enrich insiders,” the trust said.
The ESJT requests that before ReconAfrica declares bankruptcy they must remediate their waste mud pits and compensate those Kavango communities harmed by the company’s operations. The Trust revealed that ReconAfrica hired bankruptcy specialists Alvarez and Marsal.
“All court cost orders imposed on Kavango communities for standing up to ReconAfrica must also be withdrawn, “said ESJT.