Rural communities call for transparency in Malawi’s oil search activities
- as firms forge ahead with data interpretation on preliminary survey
By Deborah Manda
Rural communities in districts where oil exploration activities are taking place have called on the government to ensure that it updates them on the progress of the prospecting work in their areas.
The members of the community made the call during a consultative meeting on the Draft Petroleum Policy, which the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining held in Mangochi.
The government has scaled up work on oil exploration following recent remarks by State President Arthur Peter Mutharika at the commemoration of the World Water Day in Mangochi recently that Malawi does not need to lag behind other countries in the region in its pursuit of oil wealth.
Among other activities, the government is developing the new policy to govern the sector and has been conducting consultative meetings with stakeholders in all the districts of the country.
We want continued engagement with the government and oil firms regarding the oil exploration activities happening in our areas. It is an insult for us just to get the news from the media that our area was demarcated for oil exploration without first being consulted,
said one of the people during the consultations.
He also questioned the criteria the government used to come up with the six blocks where petroleum is being explored.
In his response, Consulting Geologist Charles Kaphwiyo said that they were looking at the geological aspect of Malawi in demarcating the blocks and areas that fall within African Rift System were prioritised during the demarcation process.
At the meeting, Dave Jambo, a geologist in the oil and gas section in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining assured stakeholders that the government will keep them informed about oil exploration and mining activities taking place in their respective areas.
Jambo said currently the government is conducting an interpretation of data from the Countrywide Airborne Geophysical Survey dubbed Kauniuni through a project dubbed the Geological Mapping and Mineral Assessment Project, and the data will be available to interested stakeholders including representatives of communities in prospecting areas.
He also assured stakeholders that government is open to further questions and queries on the draft petroleum policy and any pertinent issues to do with mining.
A representative of Mangochi District Commissioner, Anthony Zimba, thanked the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining for including the people of the district in the consultations adding that “they hope their input will be incorporated in the final copy of the policy.”
Meanwhile, following the government’s lift of the suspension of oil search activities, tenement holders have resumed their prospecting activities.
Head of Oil and Gas Section at the Ministry, Cassius Chiwambo, told Mining & Trade Review that Hamra Oil Holdings, which holds the tenements for Blocks 2 and 3 mainly located offshore in the Northern Region, is currently mobilising to start onshore drilling to study offshore outcrops of oil formation.
Rak Gas MB45, which holds blocks 4 and 5 located both onshore and offshore starting from Nkhotakota southward to Mulanje, is reportedly studying data that it collected from the full tensor survey (FTG) which was executed before government suspended the activities in 2014 to review the licences.
Tenement holder for block 6 Pacific Oil, which failed to utilise the local presence of a plane hired by Rak Gas and Hamra Oil to conduct the preliminary FTG survey due to the suspension, is reportedly studying data collected from its licence area by the government through the Countrywide Airborne Geophysical Survey.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 51 (July 2017).