Botswana featured in two recent in-depth reports published in Rolling Stone Magazine (26 March 2023) and National Geographic (28 March 2023). Both reports delivered a scathing review of Canadian oil and gas company ReconAfrica and their operations in Namibia and Botswana and allege that the company may have misled international investors and broke laws in Namibia.
Rolling Stone Suggests ReconAfrica Purposefully Misled Investors
Rolling Stone writer Jeff Goodell traveled to Botswana in 2022 during which time he visited the ReconAfrica lease area around the Okavango Delta and the Tsodilo Hills. He also visited areas in Namibia where ReconAfrica have drill sites close to the river system that feeds into the Okavango Delta.
The main issue according to Rolling Stone Magazine is that ReconAfrica appears to have intentionally misled investors (predominantly from the US and Canada) over oil deposits to generate substantial profits. “It doesn’t actually matter if there are 120 billion barrels of oil in the ground or not. You just have to convince people there could be, and you can make millions,” writes Goodell. He later claims to have spoken with a Harvard geologist called Paul Hoffman who claimed that the probability of there being any oil is “extremely unlikely,” before saying that, “One of the things you’ll discover when you start looking deeper into this, is that mining companies are often better at drilling into investors’ wallets than they are at drilling into rocks.”
Rolling Stone claims to have evidence that ReconAfrica paid over $2 million to generate fake news to dupe investors. “(ReconAfrica) hired webcasters and podcasters who conducted interviews with (…) the ReconAfrica team that looked like legitimate journalism but were in fact paid-for infomercials,” claims Goodell. This hype shot the value of ReconAfrica shares through the roof, following which the company directors cashed out. Rolling Stone estimates that Company Director Craig Steinke “has netted himself well north of $30 million.”
When the company was unable to find any evidence of oil in Namibia, their stock prices fell considerably. Late last year, Deloitte ended its relationship with ReconAfrica citing irregularities, closely followed by NAMCOR (National Petroleum Company of Namibia) dumping half its share in ReconAfrica – according to Rolling Stone.
While it looks increasingly unlikely that ReconAfrica will find oil, this does not mean that they will not. Rolling Stone point out that should ReconAfrica discover oil deposits in either Namibia or Botswana, this could be a tragic outcome that forces communities into further levels of poverty as they struggle to live in a region that would closely come to resemble the Niger Delta.
While there may or may not be any oil, both Rolling Stone and National Geographic point out that to cut costs, ReconAfrica declined to use liners at their contaminate pools, and that contamination at the Namibian exploration sites has likely already infiltrated the ground water aquifer.
National Geographic Allege ReconAfrica Broke Laws in Namibia
National Geographic claim there are numerous instances of law breaking in Namibia and allege that ReconAfrica constructed an illegal road inside a nature conservancy. The report claims that ReconAfrica never consulted with local communities as required by Namibian law, that they flaunted international norms to prevent groundwater contamination to cut costs, they intimidated local communities opposed to their exploration projects, that they drilled within the Kapinga Kamwalye Conservancy without permission, and that that they failed to secure the correct environmental permits for oil exploration drilling in Namibia.
National Geographic spoke to local community members in Namibia who claim that the new illegally cut roads fracture well traversed elephant corridors. They claim that elephants, “are now migrating into unprepared villages, eating as they go and destroying their crop fields.”
Botswana has the highest incidence of human elephant conflict in Africa, particularly along the western panhandle where ReconAfrica hold their exploration lease in Botswana.
National Geographic make a further claim that ReconAfrica face a lawsuit in Namibia from a local farmer who claims that ReconAfrica was in illegal possession of his land.
While this local lawsuit commences, National Geographic claims that ReconAfrica is facing criminal investigations for securities fraud on an international scale. The Royal Mounted Canadian police are allegedly investigating ReconAfrica for securities fraud in Canada, and the German financial regulator BaFin is apparently looking into trading irregularities that could violate German law. There is further claim made by National geographic that in the US, lawmakers have called on the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice to investigate ReconAfrica.
While ReconAfrica continue to plan a roll out of exploration activities in Botswana with stakeholder mapping and engagement already underway, Rolling Stone predicts that the company is running out of money, “that the game is likely over… (and ReconAfrica) will fade away into bankruptcy and lawsuits.”