The New Times (Kigali)

7 December 2012

Rwanda: Oil Prospects Gain Momentum

Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi recently told parliament that studies done so far have shown that there are very high prospects of oil deposits in East Kivu Graben region of Rwanda.

This is the first ever solid confirmation from government on the stretched exploration activity by the Canadaian exploration firm, Vanoil Energy Limited.

Habumuremyi said: "Exploratory studies will continue. The first phase showed that there are many signs indicating that it is there. The second phase which will begin at the start of 2013 will be able to show the quantity and nature of the oil Rwanda has."

The area covers parts of Nyungwe and Gishwati forests, and Lake Kivu.

Vanoil Energy Ltd, which was previously known as Vangold Resources Ltd, has explored for oil in the area for over five years.

Earlier this year, government entered into an agreement with Vanoil to embark on airborne magnetic and gravity survey as an initial step.

Requests for details were not fully answered as the Premier did not appear inclined to elaborate further. But he promised that the House will be kept in the know, as more findings come out.

The announcement comes on the back of an article published in the Arabic Oil and Gas Journal that indicated that, Vanoil saw Sudan-like features on Rwandan seismic, indicating the possibility of oil discovery in Rwanda.

Jacqueline Mukakanyamugenge said: "I wish to know more about this pleasing development relating to findings from studies indicating that in Rwanda, we have oil. When will these studies wrap up so that we know, conclusively, the amount of oil in Rwanda and when it starts getting exploited so that it benefits Rwandans?"

"I don't want to go into theoretical details which are technical, but I am assuring lawmakers that the second phase which will follow, of digging deeply, in depth and width begins soon; the contractor is here and as studies reveal new findings, we shall update you," he said.

On April 18, 2008, the explorer [then called Vangold Resources Ltd] had announced the completion of the first exploration phase which involved the use of satellite imagery.

At the time, images showed "signs of seepage" but this did not "really tell much," Vangold's Country Manager, Joseph Katarebe, told The New Times, confirming that other thorough phases would then commence.

Vangold started exploration in February 2007. Officials have in the past told The New Times that government is taking precautions, to get a good deal.

When contacted for the latest, on Friday, Katarebe said the line ministry is best placed to give an update or any other comments.

In 2010, the oil exploration programme was transferred from the Ministry of Infrastructure to the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Minister Stanislas Kamanzi could not be reached, for comment, by press time.

Whereas oil exploration in Rwanda began later, Uganda, Rwanda's neighbour to the north, began exploring oil as early as 1920s and it was not until 2006 that the first oil discovery was made in the Albertine Graben, a region on the Uganda-DRC border.

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