The explosion of a geothermal exploration hole resulting into letting off oil spillage has scared residents and local leaders in Kibiro Village, Kigorobya Sub-county in Hoima District.
The residents said the spillage that flowed into the village and Lake Albert came from one of the holes being drilled in the area. They added that the explosion let out a waxy mixture containing crude oil that smelt like gasoline.
The Saturday night explosion came from one of the geothermal exploration holes being drilled by Royal Techno Industries Ltd.
Last year, government awarded a Shs2.3b contract to the company to drill eight temperature gradient holes to exploit geothermal energy at Kibiro hot springs, a move opposed by locals and Bunyoro Kingdom officials.
These feared that the activities would destroy the ecological system and frustrate tourism and salt production which is a primary source of livelihood for the residents.
The area councillor, Mr Apollo Kusiima, wondered that despite the spill that poses a health and livelihood risk and also threatens the hot springs, no immediate response has so far been received from the relevant authorities.
He said on February 6, 2020, the people of Kibiro, Bunyoro kingdom officials and a team from the Ministry of Energy agreed that drilling should go on provided matters arising would be tackled.
“On Saturday at around 8pm, one of the holes exploded and there was a lot of spill including crude oil. You can now smell it. The mixture flowed into the lake, fishermen strived to wash their nets but in vain. Even now, the mixture is floating in the lake and can be seen,” he said.
According to Mr Kusiima, the exploration holes are approximately 200 metres from the lake depriving people of drinking water.
“People don’t have drinking water that we usually get from the lake. We have resorted to buying it from Kigorobya more than six miles from here. A lot of gas was released and we are scared that it might have a bad effect on people’s lives.”
Kibiro village has around 200 people with five households in the immediate area of drilling, according to the politician.
When contacted, the Minister for Tourism and Antiquities in Bunyoro –Kitara kingdom, Mr John Apollo Rwamparo, said the kingdom informed the Geological Survey and Mines in the Ministry of Energy. However, he said until now, there is no response.
“The kingdom is concerned that Kibiro being a 1,000-year-old historical site that has been producing salt for that long, the spills mean that it will not be of use for some time because whatever is produced will be smelling.”
He feared that the spillage could be a health and livelihood risk to the residents as well as the environment.
When reached out for a comment, Mr Ernest Rubondo, the Executive Director of Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) confirmed the incident saying the authorities were working to establish what spilled out and evaluate the impact of the spill and damage.
This is after a team of from the Geological Survey and Mines, PAU, Ministry of Water and National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) rushed to the scene to assess the impact.
“Some work was being done there for geothermal drilling. Some of the drilling fluids came out and spilled around the site. We sent a team there and we should have a more complete evaluation of the situation by the end of today (yesterday Friday)”, Mr Rubondo said.
The PAU Executive Director also said they were working to establish of the spill had flowed into the lake.
“The Albertine Grabem is an oil area. Some of the oil even seeps onto the surface. In an oil province, it is normal for oil to seep from a deep oil reservoir even to the surface. If it can seep to the surface, it means along the way, you can find it at any depth as you drill.”
The acting director of Geological Survey and Mines at the Ministry of Energy, My Zachary Baguma, said they were assessing the situation and would issue a statement.