Oil Exploration not a threat to Ecosystem-Government.

Windhoek, Sept 20-The Ministry of Mines and Energy has refuted claims of fracking in the Okavango Delta. The Ministry was responding to an article published by The Namibian newspaper suggesting that oil drilling along the Okavango River threatens the Okavango ecosystem and the livelihood of the san people who currently live in the area.

The article which included Canadian company Recon Africa, “Oil Drillers threaten the Okavango Ecosystem” referred to a statement published in August revealed that the Canadian Company was planning to drill oil and gas wells into an environmentally sensitive, protected area in Africa that supplies the Okavango Delta with water.

The proposed drilling location sits along the banks of the Okavango River in the newly proclaimed Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.

NGOs and other community members have ripped into the Company and Ministry’s plan of the suggested fracking. Hübschle says that the lack of communication on the part of Recon and the ministry of the suggested fracking activities is very troubling, given fracking’s social and environmental record in the US.

“We should be very concerned about the long-term impacts of fracking on livelihoods, health, ecosystems, biodiversity conservation and especially climate change”, Hübschle said. 

The Ministry has refuted claims of fracking and suggested that the discovery of oil and gas in the country can be very beneficial and can have a positive impact on the Namibian economy.

The prospective area of drilling is said to be home to Africa’s largest migrating elephant herd as well as endangered African painted dogs, sable antelope and a cornerstone of Namibia’s tourism economy, which brings in around N$500 million a year in sustainable tourism revenue.

The Okavango River, in the north of the potential fracking zone, is the sole provider of water to the Okavango Delta, Botswana’s most visited tourist attraction. It supports more than a million people in the region with food, employment and fresh water, according to scientist Anthony Turton.

Recon Africa, which is listed on the Canadian TSX Venture Exchange, according to The Namibian Newspaper is claimed to have allegedly suggested on their website they have acquired the rights to drill in more than 35 000 square kilometres of north-east Namibia and north-west Botswana. According to The Namibian, maps from both the Namibian and Botswana ministries of mines confirm they have been granted petroleum prospecting licences in the area.

The Namibian Newspaper claimed that Recon Africa on their  website says that they are refurbishing a big drilling rig in Houston and will ship it to Namibia in October to begin drilling as soon as November or December this year. They say they own 90% of the Namibian side of the shale deposit, with the government-run National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor) owning the rest.

The Ministry informed the public that the Petroleum Exploration License 73 was issued by the Ministry for the purpose of exploring hydrocarbons. The drilling program is aimed at exploring the presence of hydrocarbons     and conventional reservoirs. Senior Public Relations Officer in the Ministry, Andreas Simon Released a statement on behalf of the Ministry, stating that no offshore Production License for Petroleum Exploration License 73 (PEL 73) has been applied or granted in Namibia and no hydraulic fracking is in fact planned in the country. 

In addition, the ministry also refuted claims that the proposed exploration activities are likely to cause any negative impacts on the Okavango ecosystem, as the Okavango Ecosystem is not connected to the proposed drilling locations. 

The Ministry informed the public that finding hydrocarbons (oil and gas) and development of a successful oil and gas industry will result in an increment of state income through rent rights and payment of taxes, in turn creating employment and improving infrastructure in the location. In actual fact it is said that the discovery will increase employment, infrastructural services and water supply in the area. 

Joseph NM Tobias