Namibia: No Fracking Licence Considered - Ministry

THE Ministry of Mines and Energy says there are no considerations on the table to grant Reconnaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica) a licence to conduct hydraulic fracturing (fracking) activities.

This was detailed in a statement issued by mines petroleum commissioner Maggy Shino on Monday.

"We can confirm that no licence to conduct fracking activities was granted to Reconnaissance Energy by the ministry, and no such licence is being contemplated," Shino said.

She said the Petroleum Exploration Licence 73 issued to ReconAfrica is for exploration activities in the country's north-eastern regions.

"The company is currently at the early stages of exploration where they are drilling three stratigraphic wells. The results obtained from this drilling exercise will advise the layout of the seismic acquisition, which is the next activity," Shino said.

It is only once a commercial discovery is made that the Namibian government would enter into negotiations with ReconAfrica to acquire a production licence.

"It is up to our ministry to regulate the exploration and exploitation of our country's natural resources in an environmentally sustainable manner and to utilise an evidence-based approach when making decisions to formulate policies.

"The drilling of these stratigraphic wells is once of the methods used to obtain technical evidence and data of our subsurface environment to enable sound economical decisions," Shino said.

This echoes sentiments shared by minister of environment, forestry and tourism Pohamba Shifeta, who last week responded to a query posed by Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Sydney Ndumba.

Ndumba questioned the government's decision to allow ReconAfrica to explore for oil in the Okavango Basin.

He asked whether the government comprehended the potential dangers and negative environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), assessed the potential health implications of such activities, and whether they did all the relevant consultations with local communities who may be affected.

Shifeta said concerns about fracking were premature as the oil and gas company's licence only allow "subsurface petroleum exploration" at this point, with the wells to be drilled only 30 x 30 cm in size.

Furthermore, regarding concerns about potential damaging effects to the ecologically sensitive Okavango Basin, Shifeta said the potential footprint for the ongoing activities would not affect the whole basin as it "will only occur in the area that is not bigger than 250 x 250 metres around each well".

Environmental groups and activists have been against the exploration activities and potential commercial production of oil in this area due to the long-lasting and irreversible effects it could have on that environment and local communities.

Not only is the Okavango Basin home to indigenous groups and subsistence farmers, it is also a a migratory path for elephant herds which move within the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Kaza-TFCA).

This area is the largest terrestrial transfrontier conservation area in the world, incorporating protected and communal land in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Environmentalists are also concerned that the portion of this conservation area which falls within ReconAfrica's exploration site, which straddles Namibia and Botswana, would be affected by these activities.

The exploration endeavor has garnered the attention of various international environmentally-conscious celebrities and renowned environmental organisations who are also vehemently against it.

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