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By Lunga Simelane

Journalist


‘Great opportunity for SA’: Drilling for oil off Cape Point will soon be reality

SA held 27 billion barrels and 60 trillion cubic feet of prospective oil and gas resources on the south, east and west coasts.


Offshore drilling for oil – only 60km off the southwest coast near Cape Town – will soon be a reality. This after Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy denied appeals against the applications.

The decision was welcomed by the department of mineral resources and energy (DMRE) yesterday – but others were not happy.

French-owned company TotalEnergies, with partners Shell and PetroSA, were granted environmental authorisation by the DMRE to drill up to five oil wells off Cape Point.

Creecy dismissed all the appeals, giving authority to the initial decision that DMRE had taken all requirements into consideration.

The DMRE said South Africa was richly endowed with natural resources, including oil and gas, which have proven to be game-changers elsewhere in the world.

“The DMRE believes that these resources must be explored in accordance with the prevailing environmental framework that ensures that licensing is done with the utmost environmental care founded on Section 24 of our Constitution,” DMRE stated.

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The Petroleum Agency of South Africa estimated that SA held 27 billion barrels and 60 trillion cubic feet of prospective oil and gas resources on the south, east, and west coasts.

“These resources present a great opportunity for investment and to bolster the country in its quest to address energy security that will bring about the much-needed economic growth and development.

“We’re confident TotalEnergies will proceed with the proposed exploration activities in line with the licence conditions.”

In a group statement of 18 small-scale fisher organisations, Fisher Cooperatives and Small-Scale Fishers said as ocean defenders, they were left shocked and reeling in disbelief at the decision.

“Is this an environment minister applying her mind to care for the ocean or total madness?

“[Creecy], whom we depend upon as being on the side of the environment and the well-being of communities, betrayed that trust. In this short time, the minister has enabled two oil and gas prospecting authorisations in our ocean,” the statement read.

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Fisher Cooperatives said indigenous coastal communities and small-scale fishers, individual researchers, scientists, businesspersons, NGOs, academics, the public and the provincial department of environmental affairs and development planning appealed this authorisation.

“Despite 17 different grounds for appeal, Creecy dismissed the appeals. She confirmed the environmental authorisation on the same conditions as stated in the original approval by (Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede) Mantashe.

“In the second appeal dismissed by Creecy this week, environmental authorisation had also been granted by Mantashe’s department for a seismic survey off the West Coast,” it added.

The DMRE had lost its application for a seismic survey last year as small-scale fishers succeeded in acquiring an interdict.

Small-scale fishers said on Creecy’s watch, South Africa had been ranked the worst carbon emitter in Africa and one of the 12 highest carbon emitters in the world.

Creecy said, “should any party be dissatisfied with any aspect of my decision, such party may apply to a competent court to have this decision judicially reviewed”.

Green Connection Community Outreach coordinator Neville van Rooy said their legal team was currently studying Creecy’s decision and “if there are good grounds for review, we will not hesitate to go to court”.

The Green Connection called for a ban on all offshore oil and gas exploitation and demanded a proper consultative process to determine what the proper plan was to ensure energy security within climate constraints.