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General News of Sunday, 1 August 2010

Source: The Enquirer

Kosmos Fined 400bn cedis

• For ‘Negligently’ Spilling Toxic Substances Into Ghana’s Oil Field

• But Lobbies Govt For Reduction

A ministerial committee established to probe into the spillage of toxic substances into the country’s oil fields by oil drilling giant, Kosmos Energy, has slapped a punitive fine of GH¢40m or ¢400bn on the company. Within five months, Kosmos spilled a total of 699 barrels of Versaclean, a type of drilling fluid or oil based mud, which contains poisonous heavy metals, on three occasions.

The committee’s investigations concluded that the company was ‘negligent’ as far as the spillages were concerned. The three spillages occurred in December 2009, March 2010 and May 2010.

With regard to the first Spillage, Kosmos admitted that the supervision and management of the drilling operations were poor and weak respectively. Instead of the company ensuring that such devastating incident does not recur, Kosmos deferred their planned maintenance for some months, a major reason that caused the second spill in March, this year. Further, Kosmos blamed the third incident on mechanical fault. Kosmos flew a team of experts from Houston, USA, to meet with the committee and even though they apologized for the company’s negligence over the spillages, tried to downplay the impact on the environment in a bid to escape punishment or for the government to treat the company with soft gloves but the committee was firm in arriving at the fine.

Lobbyists for the company are here in the country doing their best to ensure that government reduces the fine before it issues a white paper or take a decision on the committee’s report.

The government held a cabinet meeting last week and a major issue on the table for discussion was the Kosmos’ 400-billion-cedi fine.

Meanwhile, industry watchers who spoke to The Enquirer in an interview commended government for the punishment meted out to Kosmos, but wished the fine was made heavier than what was recommended by the committee.

They urged government to remain unyielding in its punishment against Kosmos, to serve as a deterrent to oil companies working, or yet to work, on Ghana’s oil fields, as well as mining companies in the country. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology held a press conference last Thursday to announce that Kosmos has been fined for ‘negligently’ spilling toxic substances, but failed to mention the proposed fine by the Committee. The Deputy Minister of Environment, Dr. Omane Boamah, said, “We were able to establish negligence on the part of KOSMOS in the first case; in the second case, we were also able to establish negligence because they differed their own planned preventive maintenance schedule that had been put in place.”

He added that the government will not compromise in protecting the marine environment and the coastal companies from the activities of multi-national oil companies.

Receiving the recommendation, Sherry Ayittey, Minister for Environment noted that the government will study the report before making a final decision.

She added, “I also want to assure you that this report is going to be studied; we will also offer Kosmos to present their comment on the report before the ministry takes a final decision”.