Picture from https://www.jhiassociates.com/about-canje-block
Water is an important feature in both India and Guyana. India’s epic flood legend involves Manu protecting a fish from being eaten. He honored the fish’s wishes and kept the fish in a jar until releasing him back into the sea. The fish thanked Manu by advising him of a coming flood and told him to build a ship. The fish guided Manu’s ship to the northern mountain. Manu climbed the mountain and was the lone survivor after everything else was wiped away. Legend/history credits Manu as the new progenitor of the human race during the Harappan Period.
Some Indians, many centuries later, eventually made their way to “the land of many waters.” The Indian indentured servants in Guyana filled the labor void following Britain's abolition of slavery. One of the main rivers in Guyana is the Canje River. The Canje River is located in northern Guyana and runs mainly parallel to the Atlantic Ocean. The river is home to the Canje Pheasant, Guyana’s national bird.
The Canje River later inspired the naming of a major oil block. There are 6 oil blocks off of Guyana’s coast that international companies have obtained, or are vying for. The Canje Block is special because it will be the first to test the basin floor terrain. The other blocks’ oil discoveries were made in the continental slope area. The Canje Block, on the other hand, is prospected to have more recoverable hydrocarbons by virtue of the basin floor terrain. The beneficial resources in this block are between 6-40 million years old.
The Canje Block has been marred by controversy. On March 4, 2015, former President Donald Ramotaur signed over the license to the Canje Block and Kaieteur Block to Mid-Atlantic Oil and Gas Incorporated. This was on the eve of the general elections and Exxon’s public announcement of the first discovery near the Stabroek Block. The transfer raised several red flags.
First, Mid-Atlantic had no prior history in the industry with developing ultra deep water blocks. Second, Mid-Atlantic did not obtain, and was not required to obtain, outside insurance. Self-insurance is not the industry norm because if a company is involved in an oil spill and does not have the funds to clean up the spill, the company could simply declare bankruptcy. The victims of the oil spill would likely have no recourse. Third, Mid-Atlantic is not paying royalties or taxes. Finally, and perhaps most alarming, Guyana has to pay $50 million (US dollars) for “pre-contract” costs with no explanation of what those costs are. Mid-Atlantic has since partnered with Exxon, Total and JHI Associates for the Canje Block.
The Canje Block controversy could have major ramifications in the future. For example, an oil spill can affect the environment and economy for years to come. The Exxon Valdez and BP oil spills should serve as warnings. Furthermore, the odd circumstances surrounding the Canje Block transfer seems to indicate foreign influence attempting to circumvent Guyana’s government. Many wars and unrest in the Middle East can be linked to foreign influence as a means to profit from the oil industry. As explained in previous articles, Guyanese would likely prefer its government to take charge of the country and promote safe policies relating to its oil.
Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. is a civil transaction/litigation and bankruptcy attorney. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, a minor degree in History that focused on the slavery and indentured servitude eras, a minor degree in Criminology, and a Juris Doctor degree.
MDGR Law, P.A.