Local leaders in Nkhotakota have stopped a United States based oil firm from conducting a mapping exercise on Lake Malawi ahead of possible oil exploration.
The company Hamra Oil Holdings was on Tuesday barred from going ahead with the exercise until it presents Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) to the Nkhotakota District Executive Committee (DEC).
The members want to use the ESIA to monitor the exercise amid concerns over environmental impacts if plans to explore oil on Lake Malawi are carried out.
District Fisheries Officer (DFO) Rodgers Making said the exercise could spell doom for 800 species of fish found in the fresh waters of Lake Malawi.
He said exploration of oil on Lake Malawi will see the water lose its freshness due to contamination with oil.
“Did you think of measures that will fully protect the environment?” he queried while emphasizing that water level fluctuation projections are at 472.972 meters which is lower than the expected.
But Malawi’s Mineral Expert, Grain Malunga downplayed the concerns saying the mapping exercise will be done on the shore and the contractors will only use campus and small hammer to map how the rocks appear on the surface, therefore, the environment will never be affected.
“It takes between 7 and 15 years to explore for a mineral up to a level it is mined, but this exercise is planned to last only for a month. You cannot go to an area to mine if you don’t know what is in the ground because the mineral is confined in certain areas, therefore, the samples help you to determine the mineral and at what locality,” said Malunga.
“Once that information is done you zero in and start drilling and reservations are made,” he added.
On the ESIA, he said the assessment was conducted and reports were shared and certified.
He added that they have taken the council’s concerns into consideration and will go back shortly for a full consultative meeting.
The oil mapping exercises are to be conducted in Karonga, Nkhata Bay, Rumphi and Nkhotakota districts.