Locals, conservationists and journalists have accused Canadian oil exploration company ReconAfrica of disregarding laws while searching for oil and gas in Africa. The company is accused of failing to fully assess environmental risks, line oil waste pits with plastic to protect groundwater, and in some instances drilling before receiving permits.
A National Geographic investigation determined that ReconAfrica has been operating unlawfully in Namibia and threatening the ecosystem. ReconAfrica has been in Namibia for roughly 14 months to find oil. On January 26, Legal Assistance Centre, a Namibian human rights organization, launched a complaint about the company’s operations on behalf of community members. Through Legal Assistance Centre, locals in northeastern Namibia say that ReconAfrica started exploring their lands without engaging the community.
According to the Legal Assistance Centre, six families say ReconAfrica forced them to sign papers without an explanation. The company is further accused of damaging people’s homes, cutting new roads in a virgin area and invading wildlife territory.
National Geographic has been investigating ReconAfrica’s activities in sub-Saharan Africa since October 2020. Since then, the media company realized that ReconAfrica has broken rules and ignored both governmental and community concerns in its quest to find oil and gas.
ReconAfrica’s activities in the Okavango Delta, a 7,000-square-mile desert wetland, have also caused concern. Despite the delta being a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to rich wildlife diversity, it has been opened to a company that operates without care for the law.
In Namibia and Botswana, ReconAfrica has permits to operate in the wildlife-rich Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). The protected area was established by five southern African countries to protect threatened species. KAZA is home to the remaining largest population of endangered savanna elephants and wild dogs, among other species.
Accusations leveled against ReconAfrica include drilling test wells without permits. According to National Geographic, ReconAfrica drilled two test wells before applying for all the required permits. ReconAfrica has also reportedly relocated a second well in a wildlife conservancy without permission. While ReconAfrica has refuted these claims, strong evidence is piling up to incriminate the company.
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