By Wendell Roelf
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Canada’s Reconnaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica) will start a new drilling campaign early next year near the protected Okavango Delta in Namibia, its new CEO said on Thursday as he downplayed criticism of the project from environmental groups.
ReconAfrica has faced strident criticism from Namibian environmentalists and communities, but has the government’s backing to continue drilling in vast acreage it holds with environmental authorization to drill up to 12 wells.
“When we operate, we operate well, we operate safely, we operate within the guidelines of everything, so the noise out there is noise,” ReconAfrica CEO Brian Reinsborough told Reuters on the sidelines of an African energy conference.
“We’ve actually monitored animal movements… and it’s very, very low… this is a pristine environment, we recognise that, and our philosophy internally is no injuries, no spills, no waste and that’s what we plan to do,” Reinsborough said in some of his first comments to international media since his appointment in August.
Two years ago, the Namibian energy minister told Reuters that the government would award a 25-year production license should the junior oil and gas company find any oil in the Kavango Basin where drilling is taking place some 260 km from the pristine Okavango Delta, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Okavango Delta, shared by Botswana and Namibia, is one of the very few major river delta areas that does not flow into a sea but drains into the sands of the Kalahari desert.
It is fed by the annual flooding of the Okavango river, making the wetland an important dispersal route for elephant and other wildlife.
Reinsborough said the company will start a new 4-6 well drilling campaign early next year, after an initial set of wells proved the existence of an active petroleum system with an estimated 2 billion barrels of oil and 30 trillion cubic feet of gas.
However, environmentalists and communities in the area have not given up protesting against ReconAfrica’s work and lodged a complaint to various regulatory authorities, including the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, in August.
“The company’s statements continually downplay the risk of very serious repercussions on the water system that tens of thousands of people living downstream from their operations depend upon for their survival,” read part of the complaint seen by Reuters.
(Reporting by Wendell Roelf, Editing by Susan Fenton)