Australian exploration company, Invictus Energy, has set the record straight after media reports said Zimbabwe had discovered of oil and gas deposits. The company said “oil or gas discovery has not been made” but there’s evidence of “undiscovered accumulations which have both a risk of discovery and a risk of development”.
The company said although the Cabora Bassa Basin, the location of the prospect possess all the elements for a working petroleum system, a discovery can only be confirmed through drilling of an exploration well.
Invictus confirmed that an exploration well would be drilled in 2020 to confirm the potential of the Mzarabani Prospect (Muzarabani, is situated in northern Zimbabwe).
Announcing news of the evidence of undiscovered accumulation following initial exploration, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa said, the “findings are positive and point to oil and gas deposits in the area,” and the results of preliminary studies as communicated by Invictus “is an exciting development for our country”.
Mnangagwa said the government will work very closely with Invictus to ensure that the company “realises its plans to sink an exploration well by mid 2020. After the exploration well, the next stage will be commercial exploitation of the resource. In the interim, additional geo-physical work is ongoing to identify further exploration targets. Updates will be given as and when the planned exploration work results come in”.
Commenting on the progress made, Invictus Energy Ltd Managing Director Scott Macmillan said in a statement: “We are extremely pleased to have the support of government as we progress our work program towards the drilling of the first exploration well in the Cabora Bassa Basin. We look forward to working with the Government on Zimbabwe on this exciting project which if successful can make a significant contribution to Zimbabwe.”
News of the potential discovery of oil and gas in the country has been greeted with much optimism by Zimbabweans, with hope that it will change the fortunes of a county teetering on the brink of an economic crisis. While the development offers hope for an economy, which is in a precarious position, Zimbabwe has previously failed to effectively leverage, and manage its natural resources to benefit local communities, and the country at large.
There are concerns from citizens that the discovery of oil in Zimbabwe is more likely going to result in government looting, and a resource curse situation, where the abundance of oil will not translate to economic growth, which benefits the citizens but a select few due to corruption, greed and poor resource mismanagement.
Social media has been abuzz with Zimbabweans citing the looting, which followed the discovery of diamonds in Marange and Chiadzwa in 2005, as the reason for their pessimism. @tshumatb wrote on Twitter: “More of a curse than opportunity for the country, #Zimbabwe would not see the light of the proceeds of oil like the way it never benefitted from the Marange Diamonds!The same elite looters in the system will loot the country dry I pray that the oil is not discovered not yet.”
The same pessimistic sentiments have been shared by many Zimbabwean on social media that the government would need to reform to ensure resources are managed transparently, and the proceeds from the country’s natural resources will be returned to the government.
In 2016, former President Robert Mugabe famously claimed that the government had lost $15 billion in revenue from the diamond mining operations in Marange due to shady deals. Many of Mugabe’s cronies were fingered in dodgy diamond deals with Chinese companies. The army, police force and intelligence services were also accused of looting diamonds in Marange.