United Arab Emirates (UAE) firm, RakGas, has gained support from local communities as it gears to start preliminary oil exploration activities in Malawian districts under Block Five.
Since last week, RakGas has been implementing sensitisation activities to bring awareness of its impending aerial activities in connection with oil and gas search.
Through the Department of Mines and District Councils, the company engaged community leaders comprising chiefs, councilors and members of Parliament (MPs) in Mulanje, Machinga, Zomba, Chiradzulu, Thyolo and was later this week expected to interact with local leaders in Phalombe and Blantyre—all of which fall under Block 5.
The move towards aerial exploration comes after the Malawi Government last year awarded RakGas blocks Four and Five of the six demarcations for possible oil and gas exploration.
The company is yet to start sensitisation on Block 4 which, among other districts, covers parts of Nkhotakota, Salima and Mangochi.
The aerial survey, called Full Tensor Gravity Gradiometry (FTG) that RakGas is preparing to start in Block Five, is a measure of the differential acceleration of the earth’s gravity field over a unit distance.
It captures minute variations in the earth’s gravitational field and directly gauges the density distribution of the subsurface in search of sediments that trap oil and gas.
However, while supporting oil and gas exploration based on its potential to develop the country, most of the local leaders said should the hydrocarbons be discovered, communities would have to be consulted before drilling starts.
For example, Zomba Central MP Patricia Kainga Nangozo said communities will also have to be involved in negotiations for development agreements and product sharing deals.
“We are thankful that RakGas has come to share with us their intentions. But we also expect them to periodically update us on the progress they are making,” she said
MP for Zomba Malosa Roy Kachale Banda said legislators, councilors and other stakeholders welcomed the project, but said it was important to put legislation in place so that at the time of drilling for oil, a clear framework should be in place for managing the resources for the benefit of Malawians.
At a meeting in Machinga, Traditional Authority (T/A) Chamba also said he was happy that the company came to inform the communities about the project taking place in the locations.
Chimwemwe Chikuse, a RakGas official, explained that the firm intends to have a strong partnership with communities they will be operating in and expressed support for community involvement in various agreements pertaining to resources.
On the FTG, he said the flying will have no negative impacts on the community or the environment because the aircraft will only be recording the intensity of magnetism from an average of 100 metres above the ground.
—JARSON MALOWA, contributor.