Joy as Zambia strikes oil

The discovery also places Zambia’s north-western region on the road to becoming the country’s economic mainstay after the recent huge foreign investment at Lumwana Mines, which has one of the world’s largest reserves of copper ore.

What remained to be done was for the exploration companies to determine the sizes of the identified oil and gas reserves in the two districts and expand the scope of the study to other districts in Zambia, said Mwanawasa.

Mwanawasa said he sent a team of experts from the geological survey department, the ministry of Mines and the ministry of Science and Technology following reports of prolonged fires in 2004. Three surveys were conducted with samples of the third survey collected and sent to Germany for analysis.

“The microbial analysis showed that 12 sites were positive for oil and six for gas,” said Mwanawasa. “To do this, the survey information so far collected and analysed, can be accessed at the geological survey department at a nominal fee.”

Following the discovery, Mwanawasa named a petroleum committee as stipulated in the country’s Petroleum Act to facilitate oil and gas exploration by private companies. The committee, led by Mines Minister, Kalombo Mwansa, will be responsible for formulating policies and guidelines for issuance of licences relating to petroleum and its extraction in Zambia.

Members are Energy Minister, Felix Mutati, who will be the vice-chairman of the committee, Justice Minister, George Kunda, Finance Minister, Ng’andu Magande and special assistant to the President for Legal Darlington Mwape.

Mwanawasa said exploration companies would determine the reserves from the two districts before expanding the exercise to other parts of the country.

“It is hoped that the country will see more exploration and extraction activities for oil and gas in different parts that would strengthen the country’s economy,” Mwanawasa said.

Meanwhile, an economic lecturer at Zambia’s University has cautioned the government against signing development agreements for oil explorations to avoid exploitation of its citizens.

Commenting on President Levy Mwanawasa’s pronouncements recently about the discovery of oil and gas reserves in north western Zambia, Professor Ventakash Seshamani called for caution and draw lessons from experiences in countries in Africa where returns from exploration of oil reserves have not benefited the local people.

According to Seshamani, Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo-Brazzaville have oil reserves yet they were among the poorest countries in Africa and the world.

Some of these countries discovered oil reserves when they did not have proper governments and did not channel the returns for development purposes.

Other economic commentators urged the government to re-assess the samples and determine whether the findings in Germany were a true reflection of oil and gases.

” If these samples have oil and gas contents the government should have explained their value, who knows, they might be fossils,” said David Punabantu.

October 2006
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