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Background information

ReconAfrica

ReconAfrica, or Reconnaissance Energy Africa, is a Canadian-registered junior oil and gas company that has started oil exploratory drilling in the Kavango Basin in north-eastern Namibia and north-western Botswana. They are currently in their initial exploration phase in Namibia and
that they have confirmed a “working petroleum system” after their first two wells.

image.png
(Image via
)

ReconAfrica’s areas of license, comprising of a license with Namibia and a license with Botswana, cover a total of
. Their license areas cover part of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin (also known as the Okavango River Basin) and border the Okavango River, upstream of the Okavango Delta.

Maps of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin:

The Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is a large inland delta located in north-west Botswana and is a world-famous hotspot of biodiversity. It has been designated as both a
by UNESCO and a
by The Ramsar Convention, and is one of the
. The Delta hosts 130 different species of mammals, 482 species of birds, 89 species of fish, 64 species of reptiles, and 1061 species of plants (
). The Okavango Delta is a key habitat to countless wildlife, including many threatened and endangered species. It is the core area of the largest remaining population of the endangered African savanna elephant, which is in fact the largest remaining population of elephants in the world (
). According to
, it is “
a site of global importance for biological conservation and diversity”
.

image.png
(Image from
- May 25, 2015)


There are a number of concerns that have been raised about ReconAfrica’s plans and operations.

Consultation

There has been a clear lack of adequate consultation. Many people have complained that they were not consulted or even
informed
that about the drilling plans until they either heard about it in the news in the fall of 2020 or, in the local villages, when equipment started showing up and land began to be cleared for operations. The few consultations for the project happened much too late in process, indicating that ReconAfrica was never planning on taking a no from the local communities for an answer. ReconAfrica’s license with the government of Namibia was granted all the way back
and their license with the government of Botswana was
.

Regarding the consultations that occurred, there have been complaints that people were bombarded with very technical language and there was not enough time given for questions. COVID-19 gathering and travel restrictions
many people from being able to attend consultations, however some have said they believe ReconAfrica has actually been
as a cover for not consulting enough people.

ReconAfrica has not had the free, prior, and informed consent of the Indigenous San communities in their license areas. Some Indigenous San communities have said they do not consent, and at the beginning of February
in protest and to deliver a petition against ReconAfrica’s project.

There has already been
, where ReconAfrica set up and started drilling on the land of a local man and his family without any notice.

EIAs

Environmental activists and experts have said the initial environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the exploratory drilling was flawed and did not include any interested and affected parties.
The consultant hired by ReconAfrica to do the EIAs has insulted environmental activists and a
concerned about the project, bringing into question the objectivity of the EIAs. People have said that ReconAfrica is
with their environmental impact assessments (i.e. exploratory drilling, seismic testing — but no general EIA for the project) to obscure the impacts of the project as a whole in order to get their foot in the door and to avoid negative reactions.

Fracking

There have been many fears that the company will use fracking at some point in the project. Previous reports and presentations to investors contained many references to “unconventional” opportunities, which require fracking. There are videos and articles interviewing ReconAfrica executives, where they specifically refer to these unconventional opportunities. Though ReconAfrica likes to emphasize that they do not have a license to frack nor have they applied for one, they are only in their initial exploration stage anyway and the
real
worry is that they will use fracking at some point in lifecycle of the project. Neither Namibia nor Botswana have officially banned fracking.

Water

There are many fears from experts, local communities, and environmental activists of water contamination and depletion in the already very arid region and contamination of the water going into the Okavango Delta. Some worry that the consequences of this project would be similar to the
.

Wildlife

There are concerns about the detrimental impacts on wildlife, including many endangered species, by water contamination, loud drilling noises, truck traffic, seismic testing, and the loss and fragmentation of pristine habitats to many drilling sites and the new roads that would have to be built between them.
, which are endangered, are extremely sensitive to habitat fragmentation, which often leads to an increase in contact with human populations resulting in an increase in infectious diseases transmitted from pets (a major threat to the species) and conflict with humans. Migratory paths of the endangered African savanna elephant also go through ReconAfrica’s license areas. Any negative impacts on the wildlife will also likely have consequences on the eco-tourism sectors in both countries.

image.png
(Image from
)

Some near-threatened to critically endangered animal species
in the Okavango Delta,
according to IUCN’s Red List:
(critically endangered, increasing*),
(critically endangered, decreasing),
(endangered, decreasing),
(endangered, decreasing),
(endangered, decreasing),
(endangered, decreasing),
(vulnerable, decreasing),
(vulnerable, decreasing),
(vulnerable, decreasing),
(vulnerable, decreasing),
(vulnerable, decreasing),
(vulnerable, decreasing),
(vulnerable, decreasing),
(vulnerable, decreasing),
(vulnerable, stable),
(near threatened, decreasing),
(near threatened, decreasing),
(near threatened, decreasing),
(near threatened, decreasing),
(near threatened, stable),
(near threatened, stable).

Some near-threatened to critically endangered animal species whose
ranges overlap with ReconAfrica’s license areas
,
according to IUCN’s Red List:
(critically endangered, increasing*),
(critically endangered, decreasing)
(endangered, decreasing),
(endangered, decreasing),
(vulnerable, decreasing),
: (vulnerable, decreasing),
(vulnerable, decreasing),
(vulnerable, decreasing),
(near threatened, decreasing),
(near threatened, decreasing),
(near threatened, decreasing),
(near threatened, stable).

(PLEASE NOTE: these are not complete lists of all the near-threatened to endangered species)

*Thanks to local community-led conservation efforts in partnership with the Namibian government, WWF, and other conservation groups, the black rhino population in Namibia, where one-third of all black rhinos are found, has actually been
increasing
in recent years. In early 2020 the IUCN reclassified the
to “near threatened” from its previous “vulnerable” classification. The species as a whole, however, is still critically endangered (
).

Canada’s corporate legacy & lack of accountability abroad

The general absence of corporate accountability from Canada for Canadian companies operating abroad is also incredibly concerning. Canadian extractive companies around the world are notorious for human rights violations and environmental destruction and are not properly investigated and held accountable back home.

Neocolonialism

Many have said that ReconAfrica’s plans in Namibia and Botswana reek of neocolonialism. Though neocolonialism comes in many forms, often it shows up as predatory foreign companies from the Global North going into formerly colonized, developing nations in places like Africa and gaining control of natural resources for their own economic gain. Often these companies promise economic development and jobs, but are ultimately looking to plunder natural resources for their own profit without any real regard for the local and Indigenous people or for the environment.

ReconAfrica likes to say that they are bringing money and jobs, but they will be making the vast majority of profits. ReconAfrica has a 90 percent stake in the petroleum exploration license in Namibia with a low 5 percent royalty and required 35 percent corporate income tax rate. For their license in Botswana, they have 100 stake, 3 to 10 percent royalty and a 22 percent corporate tax rate.

There also have been questions of how exactly ReconAfrica is planning to hire many of the local people without a clear budget and plan laid out to train them for the specialized jobs in oil and gas. So far, people have reported that ReconAfrica has only been hiring locals for two weeks and only offering a few security or simple manual labor jobs.

The Climate Crisis

The effect this project will have in worsening the climate crisis is a major concern with the project. ReconAfrica believes that this is the last major onshore oil basin discovery on the planet and has advertised a “conservative”
. Fridays for Future Windhoek has calculated that this oil could release
, equivalent to around one sixth of our planet’s remaining carbon budget. In the midst of a planetary climate emergency, any new fossil fuel project is completely unacceptable and opening up a brand new sedimentary basin is both absurd and cruel.

The effects of the climate crisis specifically in the region they are planning to extract from have been highlighted many times. Namibia is already
due to its deserts, and so is especially vulnerable to water insecurity. In fact, in May 2019, Namibia had to
. The
has stated that southern Africa is
“projected to be a climate change hotspot in terms of both hot extremes and drying”
and that temperatures in the region have been increasing
“at approximately twice the global rate over the last five decades”
(chapter 3, p. 260)
.

It is particularly callous that a company coming from a country in the Global North, which will be much less likely to experience the deadly effects of the climate crisis, is trying to profit off the extraction of climate-wrecking fossil fuels in a region that is and will be one of the most severely impacted place by the climate crisis. Countries in the Global North, like Canada, need to be sending finance for renewable energy projects and climate adaptation to countries like Namibia and Botswana, not fossil fuel companies seeking to extract more profit and resources while making the climate crisis worse.



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