Calgary-based oil exploration company ReconAfrica says it has raised C$9.7 million to look for oil in Namibia—a week after civil society groups called on the TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV) to deny regulatory approval for the company’s new share listing.
The announcement came amidst investor concerns that debt would prevent ReconAfrica from covering its operating expenses, writes Namibian journalist Timo Shihepo. “ReconAfrica’s management is facing investor pressure due to its substantial spending of over N$445 million (C$32 million) on three test wells which have failed to yield commercial oil since 2021.”
The new funds would be used to explore 12 oil wells in the Kavango East and West regions. Earlier this month, the Namibian government awarded ReconAfrica regulatory clearance to explore the wells.
But that drilling program “simply shouldn’t be happening,” said Lorne Stockman, research co-director sy Oil Change International, in a July 13 open letter that called on the TSXV to deny approval for ReconAfrica’s new share listing. In contrast to the older, more established Toronto Stock Exchange, the TSVX focuses its attention on early-stage companies looking for capital to finance rapid growth.
ReconAfrica’s work in Namibia “threatens one of the world’s richest ecosystems, and flies in the face of climate science,” Stockman wrote. “As the world reels from climate disaster after climate disaster, the last thing we need is oil and gas exploration in a biodiversity hotspot.”
ReconAfrica’s drilling plans defy multiple warnings that all oil and gas exploration must stop immediately to keep a 1.5°C climate stabilization target within reach. The plans also threaten the well-being of nearby communities and key biodiversity hotspots. That list includes the Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA), Africa’s largest protected international wildlife reserve, and the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the last remaining pristine wilderness areas on Earth.
More than a million people depend on the water in the delta’s watershed and are therefore at risk from pollution and damage to water quality. Already, ReconAfrica has been accused of illegally bulldozing forest and drilling in the basin, says Re:Wild.
The groups also points [pdf] to reports of human rights abuses linked to ReconAfrica’s activities, citing claims that local community activists were being harassed and felt threatened.
“I am very afraid and even thinking of leaving the location,” an activist whose home has been broken into four times since last December told National Geographic. “We don’t know who it is, but this could be connected to my activism in the region.”
Local resistance to ReconAfrica’s exploration stems from some communities saying they were not properly consulted under Namibian law. But the Namibian High Court has rejected several communities that petitioned to stop ReconAfrica’s activities. Rather, the court is poised to assess those communities US$35,000 to cover the government’s legal fees—a substantial amount that some groups say is an effort to intimidate and silence dissent, according to Re:Wild.
Other groups had previously called for investigations into ReconAfrica’s stock listing, citing “potential misrepresentations in the disclosures and public communications” the company has put forward. ReconAfrica was also being investigated by the RCMP over allegations of deceptive stock promotions and inadequate disclosures.