Oil and gas exploration activities on Lake Malawi will begin in the next two months, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines has said.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry Ben Botolo told Nyasa Times on Sunday after demands from some concerned residents of Karonga that government should release the full sensor gravity gradiometer on oil and gas exploration on Lake Malawi.
Botolo, who blamed former government of People’s Party (PP) on some “irregularities” regarding the deal, said there was no need to panic.
“The previous government messed up the whole process by signing the development and production agreements before the exploration results, a development which was questionable hence the delays,” said Botolo.
He mentioned that government had heard the cries of the people of and that it would disclose the findings on the exploration soon, adding government has never been silent on the matter.
“We will soon meet with the oil companies that were given the licenses so that they begin their processes,” he added.
Meanwhile, Malawi has assured the United Nations (UN) of her commitment to heritage conservation issues.
In a letter to the United Nations Scientific, Education and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) signed by Ministry of Sports and Culture Principal Secretary (PS) Sam Madula, said the issue of oil exploration started under a different government before the new government came in May 2014.
“Owing to complexity of the issue at hand, the new government needs time to assess the issue and the consequences of its decision,” reads the letter.
Environmental activist Godfrey Mfiti asked Malawi to withdraw its interest to explore oil at Lake Malawi National Park, a world heritage site.
“It is unfortunate that oil drilling in Lake Malawi is undermining the possible permanent environmental and public health impacts,” said Mfiti.
But another activist, Undule Mwakasungula, urged caution on the matter, saying government “must weigh the benefits from oil and keeping the so called recognised heritage.”
Four companies—Rak Gas, the Surestream-Hamra Oil Holdings venture, Pacific Oil and SacOil—hold the exploration licences.
Rak Gas—owned by the Government of Ras Al Khaimah, one of the emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—holds Blocks Four and Five it won after an international bidding participation. It has since carried out Full Tensor Gravity Gradiometry (FTG).
Hamra—a Cayman Island origin private company—bought 51 percent into Blocks Two and Three from Surestream and entered into a deed of assignment that was duly approved and signed by the ministry. Hamra too has carried out an FTG.
Pacific Oil, which is part of Vega Petroleum Limited—the privately owned oil and gas entity that has oil producing and exploration concessions in Egypt—secured Block Six, also after an international bidding participation while SacOil won Block One.
Both Pacific and SacOil are yet to carry FTGs, but the Vega group member has indicated that it is ready to carry out the exercise once it gets government nod.
Meanwhile, Karonga-based Oil and Gas Forum has blasted CSOs for spreading false reports about the oil exploration project, arguing the former simply want to confuse people and swallow donor money.
The group’s spokesperson Steve Simusokwe said they will not allow CSOs and NGOs to represent them again, saying they had frustrated them on the now closed Kayerekela Uranium Mine.
“We’ve been deceived a lot by them,” he said, “We will not let them advocate on our behalf anymore.”
According to Simusokwe, they have already, on their own, started sensitizing the community about oil and gas exploration on the lake, playing the bridging role between the community, government and mine companies as well as negotiating with the oil companies on social corporate responsibilities.
They believe oil discovery would be of economic benefit to their communities.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :