A very revealing exchange in Parliament early this week on oil exploration :
Mr Tembo (Nyimba) : To ask the Minister of Mines and Minerals Development what the current position was regarding oil prospecting in Chama and Lundazi Districts.
The Deputy Minister of Mines and Minerals Development (Mr Nkhata): Mr Speaker, my ministry, through the Geological Survey Department, undertook a survey of the North Luangwa Valley by using a microbial technique for oil and gas exploration. A total of 153 soil samples were taken from the subsurface. Subsequently, a follow-up infill soil sampling was done in the western part of Chama District covering an area of about 200 square kilometres. A total of 211 samples were taken and the results indicated the area was prospective for oil and gas. Now that the Petroleum Exploration and Production Act 1985 has been repealed and replaced, the Government is in the process of inviting companies to determine whether there are economic sizes and grades of the oil and gas deposits in the areas. The areas have been demarcated into twenty-nine blocks and companies will be invited to bid for tenders to undertake investigations leading to feasibility studies and petroleum development.
Mr Tembo: Mr Speaker, I would like to find out how soon the Government is likely to invite those companies for bids and tenders.
Mr M. Mwale: Mr Speaker, as a Government, we are already in the process and by the first quarter of 2009, we will be inviting would-be bidders to carry out the works. I would like to request the hon. Members that they could be part of those who could take part in this exploration work rather than always complaining about the trickle-down effect.
Mr Simuusa (Nchanga): Mr Speaker, oil exploration is very straight forward and the hon. Minister said the initial exploration showed that we have oil deposits. I am wondering why the Government is talking about inviting other companies to explore, when we have all the potential and we have people who can tell us about the oil. In the meantime, one may form a company, but we were told by the former hon. Minister that it would be a parastatal to handle the marketing of oil. Why are you going around in circles?
Mr M. Mwale: Mr Speaker, if the hon. Member carefully listened to our response and I quote “the areas have been demarcated in twenty-nine blocks and companies will be invited to bid for tenders to undertake the investigations leading to feasibility studies and petroleum development”. This means that these companies will carry out these works which will lead to petroleum production. As it stands now, we cannot give a definite response that we have oil and gas, but there are positive indications
that there is oil and gas. Only when we have produced the first barrel of oil mshall we proudly say we are an oil producing country.
Mr Kasongo (Bangweulu): Mr Speaker, I would like to find out from the hon. Minister of Mines and Minerals Development whether the ministry has any plans to extend the oil prospecting activities to Lake Bangweulu in view of the escalating fuel prices in the country.
Mr M. Mwale: However, I would like to inform the hon. Member that the ministry has carried out works in Luapula and we have the information of the findings. I should mention here that Luapula has already been demarcated into blocks.
Mr Mbewe (Chadiza): Mr Speaker, I would like to find out from the hon. Minister which province the ministry will consider first because there are two provinces with oil prospects?
Mr M. Mwale: Mr Speaker, however, I would like to correct that him by saying that there are four provinces with oil prospects and these are North-Western, Luapula, Western and Eastern and Southern provinces. The works in these provinces are on going and we are just waiting for the findings.
Dr Machungwa (Luapula): It is a game of musical chairs. The question is what progress has been made in analysing samples from the Lake Bangweulu which is rumoured or reported by your colleagues to have some possibility of gold? What further information do we have on this prospect?
Mr M. Mwale: Mr Speaker, I think the results that we have from the sub-surface survey that was carried out are positive enough to show that some works can be carried out in the Luapula Province. I would also like take this opportunity to say that there is no preferred province in terms of starting the works. The works will be carried out across the whole country.