Thursday, May 23, 2024

Botswana allays fracking fears

Government has allayed fears by environmentalists and conservationists who have condemned the activities of Recon Africa, stating that fracking poses a significant risk to the Okavango Delta’s ecosystem and its inhabitants. 

The groups have also raised concerns about the potential impact of oil and gas drilling on the area’s tourism industry. 

Several organizations have called for a moratorium on fracking in the area, and have urged the governments of Botswana and Namibia to prioritize the protection of the Okavango Delta.

In response to these concerns, the government of Botswana has stated that it is committed to the protection of the Okavango Delta and its ecosystem, and has undertaken an environmental impact assessment of Recon Africa’s activities in the area. The government has also stated that it will ensure that any activities in the area comply with environmental regulations and international best

A recent parliamentary question by Gaborone Central legislator Tumisang Healy regarding exploration and mining licenses in the country also helped shed light on the government’s efforts to promote citizen participation in the mining industry. 

Gaborone Central legislator Tumisang Healy asked the Minister of Minerals Lefoko Moagi to provide information about the number of exploration and prospecting licenses and how many of them are held by citizens and foreigners, as well as the programs in place to ensure citizen involvement and the possibility of a fund for mining exploration to be used by citizens.

Moagi said the government of Botswana has been promoting citizen participation in the minerals industry, and the Mineral Policy, which was approved by Parliament in 2022, provides an enabling environment for local participation in prospecting, exploration, and mining, particularly by citizen companies. “The Mines and Minerals Act also has provisions that reserve mineral permits for construction minerals for citizens only, and the Ministry of Minerals and Energy is reviewing the Act to expand reservations for citizens.”

Furthermore, the Moagi said, the Ministry has been availing de-risked mineral concessions for quarry sites to citizens. This, he said, entails undertaking an initial prospecting survey of sites by the Botswana Geoscience Institute (BGI) and advancing the prospective projects to pre-feasibility phase before the sites are granted to citizen companies through competition. 

“The Ministry has also granted concessions through competition to citizens for which substantial prospecting information is available from previous prospecting work. This way, concessions have been granted to citizens for diamonds and coal.”

Despite these efforts, mining remains a capital-intensive industry that requires significant financial investment, and many citizens may not have access to the required capital. The Minister said therefore the government is researching more strategic funding approaches, including the possible establishment of an exploration fund.

Botswana has a rich mineral endowment, including diamond, copper, nickel, and coal. 

Minister of Minerals and Energy Lefoko Moagi has said to date three valid exploration licenses have been granted under the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act. 

Of the three licenses, one is held by a 100% citizen-owned company, while the other two are held by Botswana registered companies with foreign shareholding. The two foreign owned companies include Reconnaissance Energy Botswana, a subsidiary of Recon Africa, which has been making headlines in the past few months over their explorations along the Okavango Delta panhandle.

There have been concerns from conservationists and National Geographic about the activities of Reconnaissance Energy Botswana and its parent company, Recon Africa, in the area surrounding the Delta. 

Recon Africa has been conducting exploratory drilling for oil and gas in the Kavango Basin, which is located upstream of the Okavango Delta. The company has reportedly identified a significant hydrocarbon resource in the area, and may have plans to extract the resource through fracking.

Environmentalists and conservationists have condemned the activities of Recon Africa, stating that fracking poses a significant risk to the Okavango Delta’s ecosystem and its inhabitants. 

Gaborone Central legislator Tumisang Healy asked the Minister of Minerals Lefoko Moagi to provide information about the number of exploration and prospecting licenses and how many of them are held by citizens and foreigners, as well as the programs in place to ensure citizen involvement and the possibility of a fund for mining exploration to be used by citizens.

Moagi said the government of Botswana has been promoting citizen participation in the minerals industry, and the Mineral Policy, which was approved by Parliament in 2022, provides an enabling environment for local participation in prospecting, exploration, and mining, particularly by citizen companies. “The Mines and Minerals Act also has provisions that reserve mineral permits for construction minerals for citizens only, and the Ministry of Minerals and Energy is reviewing the Act to expand reservations for citizens.”

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