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Government suspends drilling in Kibiro following spilling into Lake Albert

Hoima, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Government has stopped drilling at its geothermal locations at Kibiro in Hoima district, Panyimur in Pakwach district and Buranga in Bundibugyo district. This is after drilling in Kibiro in Hoima early this month saw spillage of sand, clay and mud into villages and onto Lake Albert.

While media reports had said the spills were oil, the Energy and Mineral Development Ministry Permanent Secretary, Robert Kasande said: “whereas what happened in Kibiro is almost similar to what happens during an oil spill incident, it may be erroneous to dub the incident an oil spill.”

Adding that, “this is because of the composition of the observed materials that were released into the environment – predominantly sand/water/clay from the subsurface while oil is in trace levels mainly recognizable by the characteristics of hydrocarbon smell.”

Kibiro, Panyimur and Buranga are thought to have geothermal reservoirs. To increase geological confidence in the studies and reduce deep exploration risk, government had decided to drill shallow Temperature Gradient Holes (TGH) in Kibiro and Panyimur, resulting into the spill.

Kasande said in a statement on Wednesday that they were unable to quantify the materials discharged into the environment, given the length of time during which the incident occurred, for about nine hours.

He acknowledges however, that significant quantities of materials – natural gas, clay, water, drilling mud and limited traces of oil were released into the environment. The ministry says the incident isn’t serious because even the ecology was not affected as evidenced by aquatic species that were surviving normally at the shoreline.

For the locals, the spill was scary. Julius Rubanjwa, who is approximately 60M downstream from the well towards the lake was surrounded by a mixture of clay, drilling mud and sand (effluent) and his pit latrine was filled by mud fluids that flowed from the well.

Kasande said the Ministry will continue to inform, consult, involve, collaborate with and/or empowering the community and stakeholders regarding decisions about matters that may affect them, such as new policies and plans.

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