Kosmos Ghana gets most of the attention, but since I’m in Cameroon I decided to take a look at Kosmos Energy’s operations here. The company has a 100% interest in two onshore blocks, the Ndian River and Fako. Kosmos is also a non-operating partner (with a 30% interest) in a third block, the Kombe-Isepe. The company’s website provides some basic information on the blocks, including their size: “The company’s acreage position onshore Cameroon is the equivalent of more than 200 deepwater Gulf of Mexico blocks.”
Both the Ndian River and the Fako blocks are located in the vicinity of Mount Cameroon and the proposed Mount Cameroon National Park. In fact, a significant percentage of the Fako block is inside the proposed national park (Fako is another name for Mount Cameroon). The Ndian River block may also overlap the western edge of the park. The Kombe-Isepe block is located further east, between Douala and Edea.
There’s no information on the Kosmos website to indicate that the Cameroonian blocks are located in sensitive areas.
Kosmos acquired an exploration licence for the Fako block in early 2012 and it appears that drilling has not yet started. However, in the Ndian River block Kosmos will reportedly begin commercial production by the end of the year.
The environmental and social impact assessment report for the Ndian River exploration states that, “During scoping it was noted that much of the Ndian River Block area features sensitive habitats and ecosystems and vulnerable communities.” Regarding the impacts of exploratory drilling, the report says that, “Despite the mitigation measures, as the majority of the Seismic Acquisition Area is located within a proposed national park and the entire study area is within designated areas of conservation importance, the residual impact remains moderate.”
There should be a second impact assessment study for the commercial drilling phase, but I have not been able to see it.
Kosmos Energy’s activity in a conservation area is not unique. A new report issued by the WWF, the Center for the Environment and Development and RELUFA (Reseau de lutte contre la faim au Cameroun), Emerging Trends in Land-use Conflicts in Cameroon, reveals that “a total of at least 33 oil and mining permits have been granted inside of 16 different protected areas in Cameroon.”
The three organizations have managed to get a moratorium on drilling and mining licenses inside national parks (the moratorium does not apply to other protected areas or proposed parks). But as of now, there is no outright ban on licensing inside parks.
Campo Ma’an, one of the National Parks created as a mitigation measure when the Chad-Cameroon pipeline was constructed has about 2/3 of its surface licensed to mining operations. (See my documentary, Oil: A Pipeline to Prosperity? for more information on Campo Ma’an.)