According to sources, the Botswana Government through its Ministry of Minerals and Energy and newly established Botswana Oil Limited is considering a partnership with Reconnaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica) through its subsidiary Reconnaissance Energy Botswana by purchasing part of the exploration lease held by the mining company in the Tsodilo area of Ngamiland.
Who are ReconAfrica?
ReconAfrica, a Canadian oil company, acquired a petroleum exploration license in Namibia in 2019, and another license in Botswana in 2020. The combined lease areas cover over 35,000km2 of land in the Okavango River Basin. In Namibia, where state owned oil company Namcor owns 10% of the exploration license, ReconAfrica drilled two test wells in 2021 amid accusations of environmental mismanagement, social repression, and corruption. While ReconAfrica have not commenced operations in Botswana, the company is committed to exploration activities within the country in 2022 as part of the terms of their license.
According to Botswana’s Ministry of Minerals and Energy, “ReconAfrican has a Prospecting License in Botswana and there has been limited activity on that prospecting license hence no competent person resource statement has been produced on the tenement. It’s worth reflecting that the deposit in question straddles Namibian and Botswana Territories. Most exploration has been on the Namibian side than Botswana.”
Is There Oil in Botswana?
Currently, there are no studies that would indicate the presence of hydrocarbon reserves in the Tsodilo lease area. The ReconAfrica lease area in the Kavango province borders their Tsodilo lease area in Ngamiland, and the company stipulates that data derived from their test wells in Namibia indicates that the collective lease holds at least 31 billion barrels of crude oil equivalent.
“Botswana Oil Limited (BOL) is aware of the exploration by ReconAfrica. In good time, the Company, may explore what possibilities exist for partnership and to what level. BOL’s mandate is to ensure security of supply and it is in order that BOL, as the National Oil Company, should participate in projects of this nature should they prove to be economically viable,” the ministry said when responding to a questionnaire.
However, some geological experts claim that the data presented by ReconAfrica from their Namibian wells has been misinterpreted and potentially misleading.
Matt Totten, Jr., is a petroleum geologist who lives in Namibia and did oil and gas exploration in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico while working for British Petroleum (BP). Totten has examined all data released by the company, as well as the publicly available gravity, magnetic, seismic and well data across north-central and northeastern Namibia and doubts that ReconAfrica has found recoverable oil. In an interview, he explains that there’s “limited to no source rock present, without which commercial quantities of oil and gas cannot exist.” Totten is not involved in the ReconAfrica project.
Following his role as Exploration Manager Africa for De Beers Africa, a geologist named Mike de Wit worked as COO and President of Tsodilo Resources between 2009-2019, a company investigating economically recoverable reserves of minerals in Northwestern Botswana. In a discussion, de Wit asserts that he found no evidence of oil and gas in the region following ten years of research and onsite geological studies conducted in the Tsodilo licence areas. Furthermore, he claims that there are only small and very thin remnants of Owambo Basin equivalent formations in Northwest Botswana but that there was no evidence of any hydrocarbons in these small leftovers and that the existence of oil and gas in northern Botswana is extremely unlikely.
Despite Governments non-committal position on ReconAfrica’s activities in Botswana, the prospect of oil mining in a UNESCO World Heritage Site has attracted attention. A global campaign called #Savetheokavango has sparked international condemnation of ReconAfrica, along with the governments of Botswana and Namibia, over the effects of oil drilling on ecosystems and local communities in the Okavango River Basin.
The campaign has been supported by notable activists that include Forest Whittaker and Ziggy Marley.ReconAfrica is also currently embroiled in a class action lawsuit in the US where plaintiffs from the Eastern District of New York claim that the 1,600% increase in ReconAfrica stock prices over the past 12 months is based on a concerted campaign of paid stock promotion and opaque press releases aimed at unsophisticated investors. In Part 2 of our investigation to be released next week, we unpack whether ReconAfrica is an investment scam.
In Part 2 of our investigation, we unpack ReconAfrica’s mining past where it has emerged that the company is currently embroiled in a a class action lawsuit in the US where plaintiffs from the Eastern District of New York claim that the 1,600% increase in RECO stock prices over the past 12 months is based on a concerted campaign of paid stock promotion and opaque press releases aimed at unsophisticated investors.