For Invictus Energy Country Manager Barry Miekle, being a successful leader for the company’s maiden drilling campaign is more than managing businesses. It’s being able to provide much-needed energy to the country he grew up in. KATHY SKANTZOS reports.

Invictus Energy’s Country Manager Barry Miekle is a self-proclaimed “proud Zimbabwean”, born and raised in the southern African nation.

Invictus is currently looking to lead Zimbabwe to energy independence with its two-well frontier exploration campaign in the Cabora Bassa basin.

Drilling on the first well, Mukuyu-1, started last month and is targeting a mammoth 4.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent, making it one of the world’s largest conventional oil and gas prospects to be drilled in 2022.

Barry has played a leading role in the exploration campaign, initially joining Invictus as a project manager to oversee the company’s seismic campaign at the Cabora Bassa project, which helped firm up the prospective resource and inform the well location for the potentially transformative drilling campaign.

Earlier this year, Barry took the reins as Country Manager, which saw him take responsibility for overseeing the arrival of the drilling rig for the two-well campaign. This included organising work permits, import licences and customs clearances, which called for solid multitasking and time management skills.

“There’s a whole range of things that need to be smoothed out and prepared in advance, so my role is to try to get all these things in place,” Barry explains. “I find I’ve got to be a little bit of everything to everyone.”

While he acknowledges it’s a tough and busy environment as the project ramps up, he says it’s a privilege to be in his position.

“I don’t need any motivation to come into work, it’s just wonderful,” Barry says. “Everyone is rooting for us, the whole country is behind us, we’ve got everything going for us.”

Most of the Invictus team on the ground are from Zimbabwe, including Managing Director Scott Macmillan, which Barry believes is a vital point-of-difference for the ASX-listed company.

“We understand the nuances and peculiarities of this country, especially considering it’s a new industry,” he says.

“Our MD is Zimbabwean, so he has a deep understanding of what it’s been like here and I think that’s instrumental in the way he has structured the whole program,” Barry explains.

“I think having Zimbabweans driving things from the front here is going to be the difference in this project.

“We have a perfect blend of local management – people like me and others with the backgrounds to help navigate things here, plus the technical backup we have from around the world to deliver this project.”

For Barry and the rest of the Invictus management team, the job is more than just potentially leading Zimbabwe to energy security.

Invictus takes a “shared prosperity approach” to its operations, which aims to ensure all stakeholders benefit from finding, developing and producing natural resources, including the local community.

Barry is helping oversee the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program in Zimbabwe’s Mbire and Muzarabani districts.

“That’s a project that’s close to my heart,” he says.

“When I was down on site at the seismic, I got to spend a lot of time in the rural community and I saw firsthand the challenges that poor communities endure on a daily basis and how desperate they are for people to help them.

“They’re good, honest, hardworking people and they just need some help – and we’re in a position to do that. We were able to tailor our program to be very effective in helping exactly where it was needed. We identified water as a major issue, it’s a very dry area and water is a basic necessity for life.”

So far, the CSR program has included the drilling of water boreholes, installation of solar panels and pumps, and above ground storage tanks to provide year-round and continuous access to water for clinics and communities.

“We’ve had a huge impact already so this will continue and hopefully we will expand the program,” Barry says.

If the current drilling campaign unearths a significant resource, it could not only be transformative for Invictus, but for the overall energy needs of Zimbabwe and broader southern African region.