National Geographic: Story10 ReconAfrica pauses controversial oil drilling in Namibian wilderness

ReconAfrica has stopped drilling in the Okavango Delta watershed—for now—
leaving in its wake lost jobs and environmental concerns


Standing at the border post between Botswana and Namibia, next to the looping streambed of the Okavango River, Max Muyemburuko waved goodbye. As chairperson of Namibia’s Muduva Nyangana communitybased wildlife conservancy, he said he had come to warn local community leaders in Botswana about Canadian oil exploration company Reconnaissance Energy Africa’s (ReconAfrica) activities in Namibia.
During the past three years, he’s been a vocal critic of the company and the Namibian government.

ReconAfrica has licenses to look for petroleum across more than 13,200 square miles in Namibia and Botswana. Since 2021, the company has drilled three test wells in northeastern Namibia within the Okavango River watershed, but it hasn’t presented any public proof of recoverable oil.
ReconAfrica has said it now plans to explore in northwestern Botswana.

ReconAfrica’s license areas are upstream of the Okavango Delta, a World Heritage Site, and within the ecologically sensitive and wildlife-rich Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area. Five southern African countries established this massive region to protect endangered African wild dogs, black rhinos, and savanna elephants—the continent’s largest remaining population—among a myriad of other animals.

Now it appears that the company has left Namibia, advising certain local workers that they’re no longer needed: “Two of my friends worked for ReconAfrica, but in the last two weeks they have both been told that work is over, at least until 2024,” Muyemburuko told National Geographic on June 9.

At the start of his Botswana visit, Muyemburuko said he’d received news that his home in the town of Rundu had been ransacked. All the door locks were broken and anything of value taken, he said, adding that this was the fourth such incident since December 2022. “I am very afraid and even thinking of leaving the location,” he said, before abruptly heading home from Botswana to deal with the damage. He added, “We don’t know who it is, but this could be connected to my activism in the region.”

Read this article on National Geographic

View this article as a pdf.