Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
3 minute read
9 Dec 2021
3:34 pm

Objecting to oil, gas exploration a ‘special type of colonialism’, says Mantashe

Nica Richards

According to the minister of mineral resources and energy, environmental groups 'harassing' Shell seem eager to not see the investment SA needs to improve the economy.

Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe has announced that SA will take a mixed approach regarding energy sources. Picture: GCIS

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, which along with Shell has faced significant backlash regarding seismic surveys currently being conducted along the Wild Coast, held a media briefing to clarify what they deem inaccurate media reporting, and unnecessary pushback from environmental groups.

Minister Gwede Mantashe said it was important to “address the unrelenting attacks on oil and gas development in South Africa”.

According to Mantashe, environmental groups “harassing” Shell seem eager to not see the investment South Africa needs to curb poverty, solve energy poverty and undo the country’s high debt-to-GDP ratio. 

ALSO READ: Shell slapped with a fresh interdict application over Wild Coast seismic survey

A ‘different type of colonialism’ 

Media reports saying seismic surveys were “explosions” or “blasts” were untrue, Mantashe said. Instead, he said these surveys were conducted by releasing “compressed air into the seabed”.

He also said there was “no such an evidence” that marine life incurs irreparable damage during such surveys.

Mantashe added that those with an “extreme pure love for the environment” and were fighting Shell, through urgent interdicts, were sending a “negative” message to investors that it is “near impossible to do business in South Africa”. 

He said oil and gas exploration and drilling was taking place in the Ivory Coast and Namibia, with no resistance from environmental groups. 

“Let’s not be an island of anti-development in South Africa. We must be part of the world and play in a level playing field to survive and compete. 

“We consider the objections to these developments as apartheid and colonialism of a special type, masqueraded as a great interest for environmental protection.”

Mantashe assured that the environmental impact of all exploration activities would be minimised through stringent mitigation measures, such as increasing buffer zones around marine-protected areas to 5km, and surveying marine fauna for one hour before airgun arrays are shot into the seabed.

ALSO READ: Shell seismic survey prompts boycotts and protests

SA ‘deserves to exploit natural resources’

In the last five years, at least 12 seismic surveys have taken place in South Africa, including one in 2018 in the Wild Coast region. 

“Africa deserves a chance to build strength on resources”, Mantashe said, for the purpose of economic growth and job creation. 

He said gas was integral to the country’s just energy transition, and that the “sustainable development of indigenous gas resurrect will result in economic benefits”.

“South Africa deserves an opportunity to capitalise on its natural resources, including oil and gas, which have proven to be game changers elsewhere.”

ALSO READ: EXPLAINER: What’s the fuss about Shell’s seismic survey?

He said this “exploitation” would benefit all citizens. 

Petroleum Agency South Africa CEO Phindile Masangane said in the briefing that gas to power “complements renewable energy build” to help stabilise the grid. For at least the next 15 years, if gas is not mined in South Africa, it will have to be imported. 

“We have the opportunity to develop our own gas to complement the renewable energy programme.” 

Mantashe said should economic growth and development not occur soon, the July unrest would seem like “a Sunday picnic” – and that part of this involved submitting to oil and gas exploration. 

“We are not dismissive to those that love the environment. We are inviting them to be more engaging.

“We consider ourselves to be highly regulated,” he continued. 

He said the country took the obligations of balancing environmental care and economic benefit for South Africa citizens “seriously”.