British firm wins oil exploration licence in Lake Malawi
British oil exploration firm Surestream Petroleum has won an exploration licence in Lake Malawi, Africa's third-largest freshwater lake, Malawi's government announced Wednesday.
"This means the company can now start the exploration work which will be preceded by an environmental impact assessment," the energy ministry said in a statement.
"The licence gives Surestream exclusive rights to carry out exploration activities only," it added.
The ministry said that exploration activities will be keenly watched by the government to ensure they do not "negatively impact on the lake and its fish."
The lake provides water and fish to millions of Malawi's impoverished people. Its sandy beaches are also the country's main tourism draw. Neighbouring Mozambique and Tanzania share parts of the lake, which covers one-third of Malawi's surface.
The energy ministry said that a production licence would be issued to Surestream "only when and if oil or gas is discovered in quantities considered to be of economic value to the Malawi nation to justify production."
The government also wants to ensure that "the results of an environmental impact assessment demonstrate that the oil and gas can be exploited without impacting negatively on the lake."
Impoverished and landlocked Malawi needs some $366 million annually to import petroleum products to power its farm-based economy.
© 2011 AFP