March 30, 2022
On March 11th, 2022, the Ministry of Energy of Kazakhstan demanded that the oil companies CNPC-Aktobemunaigaz (China), KMK Munai (China), and Ada Oil (South Korea) immediately stop their work at the Kokzhide sands in western Kazakhstan, which sit upon an enormous underground freshwater aquifer.
As the prosecutor of Aktyubinsk Oblast had earlier announced, monitoring at the field determined that the three oil companies committed over 170 violations at the field, resulting in over 200 million tenge ($425,000) in fines for those violations. Damage to the environment was estimated at 7 billion tenge ($14,433,000).
CNPC Aktobemunaigaz operates 10 wells, KMK Munai operates 68 wells, and Ada Oil, 56 wells—all at the Kokzhide field.
“This decision is incredibly significant, not only for the residents of western Kazakhstan but also for the entire country. The question—oil or water?—has become increasingly relevant for oil-producing Kazakhstan, which historically has suffered from a deficit of drinking water. This is a problem that has only become more critical in the past several years because of climate change,” said Sergey Solyanik, an environmental activist from Almaty.
The decision is the result of many years of work by specialists, scientists, the local population, and environmental organizations, including Crude Accountability, who protested oil development at Kokzhide, which threatens the nationally significant source of drinking water of the aquifer.
“It is almost impossible to extract oil without damaging the environment, especially an underground water source. Therefore, it is necessary to take immediate and radical measures to lower the environmental risks of oil and gas extraction and the negative impact on the Kokzhide sands,” said Akylzhan Teleuov, associate professor of the Department of Ecology at K. Zhubanov Aktyubinsk Regional University in Aktobe, Kazakhstan. “The size of the environmentally protected area at Kokzhide should be twice as big as it is, so that it reaches the natural edge of the sands. Oil companies should be excluded from that territory,” added Teleuov.
While the Ministry of Energy’s demands do not permanently cancel the rights of the oil companies to subsoil use in the area, their decision is a historic and important win for the residents of communities around Kokzhide and for environmental defenders in Kazakhstan.
For more information:
Sergey Solyanik, environmental activist, Kazakhstan
Kate Watters, Crude Accountability Executive Director
Available in Russian here.