Malawi President Joyce Banda is reportedly wooing US oil giant, Chevron, to come to Malawi to invest in oil exploration on Lake Malawi.
Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Ephraim Chiume confirmed in an interview on Thursday that he accompanied the President to a meeting with Chevron in New York, United States, during Bandaâ€™s recent trip to the UN.
But with an $18 billion fine sought by Ecuador for environmental damage in the Amazon hanging over its head, Chevron may find it tough to convince sceptical Malawians it can be sensitive to Lake Malawiâ€™s ecology.
US Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected attempts by the second largest oil company in the US to block the $18 billion fine in the case over pollution in the Amazon jungle, according to a Wednesday online publication by Aljazeera.
The $18 billion judgement was first entered in February last year by a court in Ecuador and Chevron appealed against the judgement in a dispute that has run for nearly two decades, inside and outside the US.
The US Supreme Courtâ€™s decision is the latest between Chevron and residents of Ecuadorâ€™s Lago Agrio region over claims that Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001, contaminated the area from 1964 to 1992.
The oil firm, Texaco, was accused of dumping billions of gallons of toxic materials into unlined pits and Amazon rivers and campaigners claimed crops were damaged and farm animals killed, and that local cancer rates increased, according to Aljazeera and BBC online reports.
President Banda held talks on the morning of September 28 with Chevronâ€™s exploration boss for Africa, Ali Moshiri, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.
Banda reportedly attempted to persuade the company to explore oil on Lake Malawi, believed to have oil deposits.
Chiume in an interview on Thursday confirmed the meeting took place, but was quick to point out it was not a secret because even the President mentioned it at a news conference in Lilongwe on arrival from her trip.
Chiume said: â€œThe President met a lot of potential investors and Chevron was one of them. It was a normal interaction and, at such meetings, she persuades potential investors to come to Malawi.â€
The minister said the meeting had nothing to do with UKâ€™s Surestream Petroleum, which was given a licence by Malawi to explore hydro-carbons in the Lake Malawi basin.Â