ReconAfrica in water license misunderstanding

Kandjemuni Kamuiiri

A misunderstanding from ReconAfrica, an oil and gas exploration company searching for oil in the Kavango basin, led to the company operating without a water permit, Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (MAWLR) Deputy Executive Director (ED) Maria Amakali has revealed.

“As such, there was a misunderstanding from their side that because they are operating in non-water control area, they did not need a permit.”

This appears to be a contradiction to Agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein’s revelation last month that the company had applied to drill boreholes, for both exploration and abstraction and purposes and that, thus far, however no permit has been issued.

However, according to Amakali all industrial water use in Namibia requires water use permits no matter the location, water control area or not.

“Upon learning that they require a permit, they filled in applications to legalise the already drilled boreholes and to abstract water. However, as a ministry we need to inspect the site and scrutinize the information provided in the form before the permits can be processed.”

“Although they have EPL from Mines Ministry and ECC from Environment Ministry, they also need water use permits from Water Ministry for their operation. That’s the permits they are applying for now,” Amakali told Windhoek Observer.

The deputy ED said the current drilling operation is testing the economic viable presence of oil/hydrocarbons.

ReconAfrica began exploring for oil at Kawe village in the Kavango East region earlier this year and announced they spudded their first (6-2) well.

“If the exploration proves commercially viable, new water use permits will be required together with other environmental impact assessment to ensure that groundwater aquifer is protected from oil pollution during production.”

“We could not process the permits application before we visited the site. Our February visit was not successful as at a time of visit the company was conducting a high-pressure testing on the borehole, which made it unsafe for the team to conduct site inspection properly.”

When asked whether Recon had stopped their operation process while they wait to receive the water license or whether operation proceeds amid not having a water license, Amakali revealed that the Ministry only visited the ReconAfrica sites on 4 June and managed to carry out full inspection.

“We agreed that they send us all the information we need to process their application. In the meantime, they are not allowed to abstract from the production boreholes for their operation until we are satisfied with information to issue them with water abstraction permit,” Amakali stated.

“Our technical staff are busy scrutinising the information they provided to process their permits,” Amakali said.

Questions sent to ReconAfrica last week were not responded by the time of publication.

Meanwhile, ReconAfrica’s 10 percent shareholder National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (NAMCOR) says the exploration company needs to comply with the country’s mining regulations, ensuring that they get a water license.

NAMCOR’s Chief Executive Officer Immanuel Mulunga revealed that the two companies are still to conclude a joined operation agreement on how to operationalize their partnership where NAMCOR has got a 10 percent ownership.

“We heard some of these things through the media as well, we were supposed to have quantified the joint operation agreement with them and we are still finalizing the joint operation agreement.”

Mulunga when speaking to the Windhoek Observer also revealed that the company doesn’t have a platform to engage ReconAfrica over its concerns around the water license.

“We are not always in the picture because we don’t have a platform to discuss that. That is why we haven’t done anything. They need to go ahead and correct what they did incorrectly. It’s probably true that they were in a hurry and that they didn’t realize that there were certain things they were supposed to do but it has nothing to do with NAMCOR, we are a silent partner basically.”

According to Mulunga every petroleum exploration license that any company gets in Namibia NAMCOR has to get a 10 percent and that is a decision that was made by government.

Mulunga highlighted the fact that NAMCOR can raise concerns but it’s not the company’s responsibility to do that. He instead said that because ReconAfrica is the main operator, NAMCOR was also not aware of some of the things that were going on as ReconAfrica is should be responsible to adhere to all the laws and regulations.

“It’s not our responsibility to make sure that they honor what they are supposed to be doing. They have to do that, the company is the operators of the license. NAMCOR cannot be blamed for another company not adhering,” Mulunga stated.

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