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NGO accuses ReconAfrica of disrupting local communities

Toronto-listed Reconnaissance Africa Energy, known as ReconAfrica, has come under fire from a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Frack Free Namibia (FFN).

In a statement issued last week, FFN alleged that ReconAfrica’s exploration activities had disrupted local communities in the Kavango basin. Specifically, it charged that the thumper trucks that ReconAfrica was using to collect 2D seismic data from its licence area had damaged residential facilities in the area.

“Residents have reported that the thumping has already caused cracks and permanent structural damage to homes,” the NGO said in a statement dated October 5. (It included photographs of the alleged damage in its statement.)

FFN also argued that the Canadian company’s seismic operations represented a violation of the environmental clearance certificate issued by the Namibian government in July 2021. ReconAfrica has failed to uphold its obligations to work along existing cutlines – that is, to follow existing roads, paths, trails or other developed areas where vegetation has already been cleared – and should therefore have its permits revoked, it asserted.

“These promises were made to the Kavango East region, the San communities and to the government. ReconAfrica has not kept its promises, and it's now damaging the environment ... The environmental clearance certificate must be revoked immediately,” the NGO said in its statement.

It also claimed that the company had been building new roads without securing proper consent and had been forcing residents of the area to sign documents.

FFN specifically addressed Namibia’s Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, asking him to rescind the Canadian company’s environmental clearance certificate. But when contacted by a local newspaper, the Namibian, Shifeta said the matter was out of his hands.

“I can’t cancel the environmental clearance certificate. I don’t have the power to do that,” he remarked. “Those concerned or raising objections must follow the law based on the Environmental Management Act.” He also said he was not aware of the alleged environmental violations in the Kavango basin.

Meanwhile, Ndapewoshali Shapwanale, a spokeswoman for ReconAfrica, dismissed FFN’s complaints. The company is complying with the conditions of its environmental clearance certificate and is carrying out work in line with the environmental management plan it has submitted to the government, she told the Namibian last week.

“The seismic [survey], in compliance with the environmental management plan and environmental clearance certificate, is on schedule, with approximately 95% of the data acquired and currently being processed,” she stated.

ReconAfrica is working with NAMCOR, the national oil company (NOC) of Namibia, to explore the PEL 73 licence area in the Kavango basin. The two companies signed a joint operating agreement (JOA) earlier this year, not long after ReconAfrica reported that it had found evidence of a working conventional petroleum system in 6-1, its second exploration well at PEL 73. This marked ReconAfrica’s second discovery since the beginning of 2021, as its first exploration well – 6-2, drilled 16 km to the south – also contained a working conventional petroleum system.