Thursday, October 5, 2023

Okavango Oil exploration: ReconAfrica says no ground work yet

ReconAfrica, a Canadian oil and gas company with a subsidiary in Botswana that has been granted a license to explore oil in Botswana and neighbouring Namibia has said that it has not started ground exploration of oil at its Botswana license area.

The company had been granted a license to explore oil in the sensitive areas bordering the Okavango Delta and Tsodilo Hills by the Botswana government, a move that has sparked worldwide debate on the country’s commitment to nature preservation and conservation.

At the annual Hospitality and Tourism Association (HATAB) conference held in Maun recently, ReconAfrica local subsidiary, Reconnaissance Energy Botswana (Pty) limited said that since the license was issued, the focus has been on the desktop studies.

Ame Makoba, who is a director of Government and Stakeholder Relations, told the HATAB conference that the ReconBotswana Oil & Gas exploration license is outside Okavango Delta, Tsodilo Hills and National Parks.

“If a resource is discovered, Batswana through the government will decide how to manage it”, Makoba told the HATAB conference.

Meanwhile the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Thato Raphaka told the HATAB conference that Botswana will appear before the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) committee in July2023 to answer for the country’s decision to issue an exploration license to ReconAfrica.

Botswana’s subpoena by UNESCO comes after the United Nations agency, in a strongly worded report in 2021, warned Botswana that it was concerned, “about the granting of oil exploration licenses in environmentally sensitive areas within the Okavango River basin in north-western Botswana and north-eastern Namibia.

 The Okavango Delta was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2014 by the United Nations. Responding to the World Heritage Committee’s concerns in the past, Botswana informed the World Heritage Committee that the current exploration licence is out of the buffer and core zones of the Okavango Delta World Heritage Property and that of the Tsodilo Hills World Heritage Site which are within the prescribed Okavango River Basin (ORB).”  Botswana added that; “Notwithstanding, the ORB is regarded as an environmentally sensitive area. Therefore, rigorous and critical Environmental Impact Assessment is a prerequisite to any intrusive development in the area.”

Botswana further committed “to ensuring and monitoring of any future prospecting and mining activities within the ORB and will continue the engagement of Angola and Namibia on the management of the shared waters of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin.”

In a report titled; “State of Conservation Report: Okavango Delta Heritage Site Botswana,” dated February 2022 submitted to UNESCO, Botswana acknowledged the concerns raised by the World Heritage Committee over the granting of oil exploration licence to Reconnaissance Energy Botswana (Pty) Ltd within the Okavango River basin and the potential negative impact of the Okavango Delta World Heritage Property in case of spills and pollution.


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