Sunday Express

Lack of legal framework hampers oil exploration

Bereng Mpaki

WHILE there is a possibility for oil deposits in Lesotho, its exploration is facing challenges of lack of enabling legal framework to ensure environmental safety.

This is according to the ministry of mining, which has indicated that surface occurrences of hydrocarbons in basalt have been recorded in certain areas including Ha Mpshatla and Benteke in the Butha-Buthe district. The ministry said it currently has two agreements for exploration of oil in the country.

“Exploration for oil in Lesotho was undertaken in the 1970s in the Mahobong area but was declared unsuccessful,” the ministry recently told the Business Journal.

“However, surface occurrences of hydrocarbons in basalt have been recorded in certain areas including Ha Mpshatla and Benteke in the Butha-Buthe district.

“We have already signed memorandum of agreements (MoAs) with two private companies to explore for oil (Rhino Resources) and Shale Gas (Thaba Naledi Minerals). However, extraction of those would require petroleum specific legislation (which the country doesn’t have at the moment) and robust monitoring mechanisms due to environmental and health concerns surrounding the subject.”

The government is currently reviewing several legislations to modernise them so that they are responsive to the needs of the mining sector.

Discovery of oil deposits would enhance Lesotho’s mineral resource profile that currently includes diamonds, sandstone and dolerite.

On geochemical mapping, which is research on the levels of natural metals and other elements in the soil, the research has generated seven anomalies to-date.

The project which is a baseline stream sediment geochemical study, assesses general information on the geochemical dispersion of metal elements with the aim of providing a useful guide for future exploration strategies.

“This project has the overall objective of stimulating investment in exploration/mining in Lesotho by providing new geoscience data and maps including those showing areas of mineral potential that are created by integrating relevant geoscience maps (geology, geophysical, geochemical, structural, remote sensing etc.)

“About 90 percent of the country is covered with stream sediment sampling. Seven anomalies have been generated to-date. Soil sampling is done in two of the anomalies as part of verification of the observed chemical patterns.”

The ministry said further sampling is yet to be done in the remaining parts of the country via stream sediment sampling and on anomalous areas.

The statement from the ministry further indicated however, that progress was very slow due to financial constraints.

On the government’s plans to construct a proper geoscience laboratory in the country, the ministry has indicated that site clearance and fencing have already commenced.

Currently all the analysis is done in Council for Geosciences in Pretoria, an exercise which is costly and limiting to the country.

“We anticipate completion of design works by early 2019. Actual construction of the lab is expected to begin in June 2019,” Rorisang Mahlo, the ministry’s public relations manager said.

Sunday Express

Sunday Express

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