Heritage plans $2 million for Uganda 'social' works

Heritage Oil Corp, now exploring for oil in Uganda where it faces scrutiny from neighboring countries, as well as local lawmakers and militants, will spend $2 million to help develop social programs in the districts where it operates.

Mar 20th, 2009

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Mar. 20 -- Heritage Oil Corp, now exploring for oil in Uganda where it faces scrutiny from neighboring countries, as well as local lawmakers and militants, will spend $2 million to help develop social programs in the districts where it operates.

"Production has not yet started but we consider corporate social responsibility as a task we must undertake in order to transform the villages where we [will] operate," said Bryan Westwood, the firm's general manager for East Africa.

Westwood said Heritage had allocated $2 million for corporate social responsibility projects such as road construction and development of clean water, schools, hospitals, and other amenities in districts where Heritage works, including Hoima, Buliisa, and Pakwach.

Westwood made the announcement while presenting Hoima district officials a $300,000 company-built primary school in Buhuka parish.

Head teacher Yokonea Nyamayaro—who revealed that Carl Nefdt Buhuka Primary School was the only one in the parish—commended Heritage for helping to transform the peoples' standards of living.

The furnished seven-classroom school—named for a Heritage contractor who was shot on Lake Albert 2 years ago—has staff quarters and offices as well as a house for the head teacher and his deputy.

The 31-year-old Nefdt, a contract geologist, was killed Aug. 3, 2007, when forces from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said their territory had been violated and attacked an oil exploration barge Heritage operated on Lake Albert, which is shared by the two countries.

Later in November of that year, DRC soldiers arrested two geologists working for Mineral Services Ltd., a Heritage Oil subsidiary, on the grounds that they had illegally entered DRC from Uganda.

To end any further disputes and loss of life, the governments of Uganda and DRC last May agreed to redraw the border between their two countries.

Apart from putting lives at risk, though, the contested border was thought to be an obstacle to oil exploration due to the conflicts it spawned between the two countries, both of which are eager to reap the benefits of oil revenues.

Ugandans in particular have high expectations about their country's prospects for oil, a point confirmed by Abdul Byakagaba, senior geologist for Heritage, who said: "Uganda is capable of joining the class of super oil-producing countries."

"We are still testing the oil fields to determine how much we have and how to harvest it," said Byakagaba, adding that the company would produce about 40,000 b/d, with 28,900 b/d to be produced from the three wells in Block 3A in Buhuka.

The company, which Byakagab said would begin producing in 2011, has also drilled three wells in Block 1, which runs from Wanseko in Buliisa through the Murchison Falls National Park to Pakwach in West Nile.

Meanwhile, in addition to problems with DRC, Uganda also faces challenges at home as members of parliament have been urged to keep a close eye on international oil companies operating in-country, while Ugandan rebels said recent discoveries of oil could spur a war in the region (OGJ Online, Mar. 18, 2009).

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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