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BankTrack & Saving Okavango’s Unique Life (SOUL)
Project – ActiveThis profile is actively maintained
BankTrack & Saving Okavango’s Unique Life (SOUL)
Why this profile?
ReconAfrica has begun drilling for oil and gas in the Kavango Basin, home to what has been described as the largest oil play of the decade. Beyond being incompatible with combating climate change, the project faces growing opposition from local and indigenous communities and international allies as it affects an environmentally sensitive area which is home to Africa’s largest remaining population of savanna elephants and many other threatened species.
What must happen
Banks should avoid financing ReconAfrica or any activities connected with oil and gas drilling in the Okavango Basin, and regulators should investigate the company for potential fraud. Not only has the Ministry for Agriculture, Water and Land Reform confirmed that the company is operating without permits for water abstraction and disposal of waste water but National Geographic revealed that a whistleblower complaint was filed with the US Security and Exchange Commission. Furthermore, infamous short-selling research firm Viceroy has suggested that the company is “drilling blind” and has not found any recoverable oil at all, and German financial regulator BaFin says it has opened an investigation into the company.
|Visit SOUL - Saving Okavango’s Unique Life|
|Sectors||Oil and Gas Extraction|
Reconnaissance Energy Africa, a Canadian oil and gas company, has begun drilling for oil and gas in the Kavango Basin in north-eastern Namibia and north-western Botswana. In Namibia, the company holds a 90% share in an exploration license covering an area of over 25,000 square kilometres (6.3 million acres). The remaining 10% share is owned by the Namibian government through the state oil company, NAMCOR. In northwest Botswana, ReconAfrica holds a 100% share in a license covering an area of around 9,000 square kilometres (2.2 million acres). According to experts the company’s estimate of 120 billion barrels of oil in place is highly questionable. The Namibian Petroleum Agreement provides ReconAfrica with the exclusive right to obtain at least a 25-year production license, with a possible 10-year renewal. The Botswana agreement gives ReconAfrica the right to enter into a 25-year production license with a 20-year renewal period.
In July 2023 Recon announced that it had temporarily paused drilling in Namibia.
Impact on human rights and communities
Inadequate consultation with local communities: The company’s licensed region is home to some 200,000 people, making a living from farming, fishing and tourism. The license area is home to the First Nations San and Kavango peoples. Many are worried that extensive oil drilling could drive away wildlife and visitors (Yale Environment).
Many communities and organisations have reported that they were inadequately consulted or were left unaware of the oil project. Max Muyemburuko, chairperson of the Kavango East Regional Conservancy Association, confirmed to Mongabay that they have not been contacted by ReconAfrica or the Namibian government about plans for oil and gas production in the region. When trying to officially clarify aspects Max Muyemburuko was verbally abused and accused of working for foreign stakeholders.
ReconAfrica is facing a series of complaints as it initiated exploration on private land without a permit and does not respect the company’s seismic survey permit. For instance, ReconAfrica drilled its second test well on the farm of the Sinonge family in Mbambi village, who did not agree to the use of its land. To obtain its rehabilitation, Andreas Sinonge lodged a complaint before the High Court of Namibia. Six other families are part of a complaint from the Legal Assistance Centre, a Namibian human rights organization, because ReconAfrica representatives “entered their properties without permission, concluded seismic survey activities, and compelled them to sign papers without explaining their contents before leaving”.
Impacts on Indigenous people: Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from the indigenous inhabitants has not been obtained. KhoiSan leaders in South Africa handed over a petition to the Namibian Embassy in Pretoria, emphasising that the San peoples of Namibia's Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) had not been obtained for issuance of the exploration licence and commencement of drilling. The KhoiSan therefore stand in solidarity with the Namibian San in rejecting the project.
Risks to water: Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa, and water is scarce in the region. Within this area, the Okavango delta and Kavango basin are desert oases. Drilling for oil will require large quantities of water, and there are grave concerns about both use of water and pollution from oil drilling activities, including fracking.
Surina Esterhuyse, a geohydrologist at the University of the Free State, South Africa, commented: “There is a serious lack of knowledge on groundwater resources in the target oil and gas extraction area. The possible impact on the water resources in Namibia and Botswana is the biggest concern.” (Mongabay.)
ReconAfrica’s record to date does not inspire confidence. According to a media release from Saving Okavango’s Unique Life (SOUL) issued in February, one of the company’s first containment ponds for drilling waste had not been lined at all, meaning pollution waste draining into the ground.
Impact on climate
Climate impacts: ReconAfrica has promoted the idea that the basin – touted as the “largest oil play of the decade” - has the potential to produce as much as 120 billion barrels of oil equivalent. New oil and gas extraction projects such as this one are clearly incompatible with the goal of avoiding catastrophic climate change, and the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero pathway confirms that meeting the world’s target of avoiding warming over 1.5 degrees Celsius means no new oil and gas projects. Based on ReconAfrica’s projections, Fridays for Future Windhoek calculated that the project could generate up to 51.6 gigatonnes of CO2, the equivalent of one sixth of the world’s remaining carbon budget. The project therefore constitutes a ‘carbon bomb’.
Impact on nature and environment
Impacts on wildlife and biodiversity: The Kavango basin is one of Africa's most biodiverse habitats, home to a myriad of birds and megafauna species, including Africa’s largest remaining population of savanna elephants, African wild dogs, lions, leopards and giraffes (See Yale/Greenpeace). Extensive oil development in this region, with its attendant network of roads, rigs and pipelines, would pose a clear threat to this wildlife.
Protected areas: Full scale development during the envisage production period of 25 years will very likely have a direct negative impact on the flora and fauna of the Okavango Delta, a protected World Heritage Site. In August 2021, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee expressed concern and urged Botswana and Namibia to "ensure that potential further steps to develop the oil project ... are subject to rigorous and critical prior review". In January 2022 a group of NGOs found that Recon was clearing virgin forest in protected areas to construct a road, until stopped by the area's conservancy manager.
In addition, much of ReconAfrica's license is within the Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (or KAZA TFCA), a conservation initiative covering 520,000 square kilometres (201,000 square miles) of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe (Mongabay), as well as overlapping with six locally managed wildlife reserves (National Geographic).
Concerns around fracking: ReconAfrica has constantly and repeatedly highlighted that their main target are possible shale resources in the Kavango basin. Any so-called conventional resources (those exploitable by drilling) will be merely a by-catch. This is also clearly outlined by the presentation given by the founder of ReconAfrica, Craig Steinke, in May 2020, and by the fact that the company has hired – amongst other shale experts – the “father of modern-day fracking”, Nick Steinsberger.
ReconAfrica also confirms the need for fracking operations in its July 2020 report where the company compares the Kavango Basin with the Karoo Basin in South Africa. ReconAfrica also expresses the opinion that they are confident of obtaining access to scares water over the envisaged production period of at least 25 years – although they are clearly operating in a very arid area. Despite this, the company and the Namibian government have since said no fracking will take place.
There are numerous proven risks and impacts related to the development of fracking projects, such as industrialization of former rural areas, heavy freshwater consumption, water and soil contamination, public health impacts and a significant contribution to global warming. Even without fracking, however, it is clear that a step-by-step industrialisation of an almost untouched landscape will be the consequence of oil and gas exploitation in the licensed areas. This process will require a huge amount of fresh water in a vast water-deficient region.
Inadequate Environmental Impact Assessments: The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) submitted by ReconAfrica has several problems, some of which are being highlighted in the briefing by the Save the Okavango Delta group. Various experts have also raised questions about the accuracy of the flora and fauna report. So far, the Namibian Ministry for the Environment has approved the EIA for two test wells and 2D seismic surveys.
Claims of misleading investors: In May 2021 ReconAfrica was subject of a whistleblower complaint filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), reported by National Geographic. The complaint alleges the company fraudulently misled investors by misrepresenting its work on the project, in order to drive up its stock price. The complaint cites more than 150 instances of misleading statements by ReconAfrica, and claims the company is violating US securities laws by promoting revenue projections to investors based on activities such as fracking for which it has not secured permission or permits. In September 2021, civil society groups submitted a request to the Canadian TSX Venture Exchange to investigate potential misrepresentations in the disclosures and public communications of ReconAfrica.
Corruption: ReconAfrica has been pointed out for offering jobs to buy silence. Max Muyemburuko is both Chairperson of Kavango East and West Regional Conservancy and Community Forest Association and chairman of Muduva Nyangana Conservancy, operating within ReconAfrica’s license areas. In September 2021, he declared that he was offered a job to monitor wildlife on behalf of ReconAfrica. He interpreted this offer as bribery and an attempt to be silenced due to large criticism ReconAfrica is facing, because of the company's degradation of the environment and the illegality of its activities.
Currently ReconAfrica is funding its activities from its share capital, which has been raised through securities offerings and non-brokered private placements.
Most known shareholders of ReconAfrica are individual investors who are involved in the management of the company. Two institutional shareholders have been identified:
Invenomic Capital Management holds 0.08% of the shares and invested USD 0.05 million,
FNB Bancorp holds 0.04% of the shares and invested USD 0.03 million.
Applicable norms and standards
2023-07-08 00:00:00 | Recon pauses drilling in Namibia
ReconAfrica, the Canadian oil and gas company which has been exploring for oil in Namibia’s Kavango regions since 2021, has paused all operations in the country, reports National Geographic.
"Janine Treader, of ReconAfrica, shared a June 8 statement on behalf of the company’s media relations team answering National Geographic’s questions. It said that the company has paused drilling in Namibia while new aerial and seismic surveys are being examined. It also said that ReconAfrica remains committed to the search for oil at “the invitation of the governments of Namibia and Botswana and looks forward to the future of our exploration.” The statement continued, “We plan to be drilling again later this year when additional local and foreign workers will once again be required."
2022-02-23 00:00:00 | Canadian oil company illegally bulldozes protected land in Africa
ReconAfrica is facing a series of complaints as it initiated exploration on private land without a permit and does not respect the company’s seismic survey permit.
2021-12-13 00:00:00 | Oil company accused of drilling in African wildlife reserve, offering jobs for silence
In September 2021, he declared that he was offered a job to monitor wildlife on behalf of ReconAfrica. He interpreted this offer as bribery and an attempt to be silenced due to large criticism ReconAfrica is facing, because of the company's degradation of the environment and the illegality of its activities.
2021-11-10 00:00:00 | Namibia to licence production near Okavango Delta if Canadian firm finds oil
Namibia intends to award a 25-year production licence to Canada’s ReconAfrica if it finds oil near the Okavango Delta, Energy Minister Tom Alweendo said, despite concerns it could affect the region’s rich biodiversity.
2021-07-14 00:00:00 | Drilling operations on second well completed
ReconAfrica and NAMCOR (the state oil company of Namibia) announced July 14, 2021 the completion of drilling operations of the second stratigraphic test well (6-1).
2021-07-02 00:00:00 | ReconAfrica & NAMCOR granted 2D Seismic Permit
On July 2, 2021 Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism issued the Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) for the initial low-impact 2D seismic program to be conducted in Petroleum Exploration License No. 73 in the Kavango East and Kavango West regions of Namibia. With the ECC seismic permit now in place, ReconAfrica and NAMCOR (the National Oil Company of Namibia) have begun acquisition of the initial 450 km 2D seismic program in the Kavango Sedimentary Basin.
2021-06-04 00:00:00 | Working Petroleum System Discovered
ReconAfrica announced the drilling of the first well was completed in March 2021 and that preliminary results were showing the discovery of a working petroleum system in the Kavango Basin.
According to the company, its second well provides more evidence of a working petroleum system
2020-12-31 00:00:00 | Test drilling programme now in progress
In December 2020, Reconnaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica) started drilling on the first of three wells in north-eastern Namibia.