Angola opens up Okavango Basin to oil, gas exploration

  • Minister downplays impact on fragile ecosystem
  • Botswana has licensed Canadian company to prospect on its side of the Okavango Basin

Oscar Nkala

The Angolan parliament has revoked a ban on exploration for crude oil and natural gas in protected areas, including the wildlife-rich Okavango Basin. On February 15, parliament voted overwhelmingly to allow oil and gas exploration in natural reserves, including the Kassanje Basin, a key component of the cross-border Okavango Basin ecosystem which includes Namibia, Zambia and Botswana.
Mineral resources minister Diamantino Azevedo said oil and natural gas prospecting will cover up to 5% of protected natural reserves. He said actual drilling may cover around 3% of the area opened up for mining. Responding to concerns that opening up the Okavango Basin to mining would upset the ecosystem, degrade wildlife habitats and worsen an existing poaching crisis, Azevedo said impacts would be controlled and mining revenues used to fund nature conservation.
He added that the United States, Gabon and Norway have proven that mining can be done provided there were limitations to minimise its negative impacts on fragile natural ecosystems.”What we are doing is not unheard of,” he told local media in Luanda. “Oil revenues will benefit local communities and the wildlife parks themselves.”
The amended bill will be signed into law by President Joao Lourenco, who was the main proponent of the changes. The vote happened nearly a week after the National Agency for Petroleum, Gas and Bio-fuels invited bids for research into the potential impacts of mining on the environment in the Etosha and Okavango Basins.
“Designation is given to the contract by EPC, being Acquisition of Services, Laboratory Analysis and Technical Support for Soil Geochemistry (using the MPOG method) of the East and West Portions (Lots) of the Etosha and Okavango Basin, within the scope of the ‘Project for the Study of Potential Oil in the Interior Basins,’” the agency said on February 10.
“The contracting entity is the National Concessionaire whose purpose is to regulate, supervise and promote the execution of petroleum activities, namely operations and contracting in the field of oil, gas and biofuels. Details of the tender will be provided by e-mail at the request of the bidder and upon payment of 250 000 Kwanza. The deadline for submission of proposals is March 1, 2021 at the Rua Lops de Lima, Urban District of Ingombota in Luanda.”
On February 8, the agency invited bids for a parallel project to study the potential impacts of oil exploration in the eastern and western parts of Etosha and the Okavango Basin and ‘interior basins of Angola’ under the same ‘Project for the Study of Petroleum Potential of the Interior Basins of Angola.’
Angola is the second Okavango Basin member state to open up the wildlife-rich Okavango Basin to oil and gas exploration.. Botswana has already licensed a Canadian company to prospect for hydrocarbons inside its portion of the Okavango Basin