The public hearings on findings of an environmental and social impact assessment, which will assist government to make an appropriate decision during the review and approval for oil exploration concluded on Wednesday in Blantyre.
Surestream Petroleum, a United Kingdom-based company, was granted a licence to conduct oil exploration activities in Lake Malawi and the company will soon carry out seismic and aerial survey to provide detailed information on oil availability.
No exploration by drilling is proposed at this stage, but after the mapping stage, the exploration process can proceed to second stage involving exploratory drilling to check and validate the availability of oil reserves.
When the drilling process proves that economic oil reserves are available, the process can proceed to a third stage involving commercial production.
The last in a series of six public hearing was concluded in Blantyre on Wednesday where government officials, Surestream Petroleum and consultants RPS Group clarified on points of concern from the public, including the academia and civil society.
But each of the three stages require separate environmental and social impact assessments before government approvals are granted, stated director of Environment in the department of Environmental Affairs Aloysius Kamperewera.
He said the consultations were meant to collect ideas which will be used in revising the environmental and social impact assessment before government’s approval.
Surestream general manager Keith Robinson said the exploratory exercise to be undertaken after the approval of the environmental and social impact assessment will help answer questions whether there is oil in Lake Malawi or not.
“All we know for certain is that nobody knows whether the oil exists. For Surestream, we need to understand what we are moving into. We don’t want to put ourselves at risk,” he said. “We are intending to discover oil deposits.”
RPS Group consultants explained that the environmental and social impact assessment has identified and assessed all significant impacts of the proposed project and the local environment and the socio-economic background.
Surestream are expected to conduct exploration activities in Block 2 and 3 which span from Karonga, Rumphi, Nkhata Bay, and Nkhotakota.
Other consultations were held in Nkhotakota, Nkhata Bay, Rumphi, Karonga districts and Mzuzu and Lilongwe.