Minister Gwede Mantashe rubbed environmental organisations up the wrong way after saying protests against Shell’s seismic survey are examples of apartheid and colonialism of a special type.
Mantashe also said South Africa’s economic development is being suppressed in the name of environmental protection.
The minister of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy said this last week while briefing the media on the sustained campaign by environmental organisations, after petroleum company, Shell, announced that it would start a seismic survey in search of oil or gas deposits from Morgan Bay to Port St Johns.
The seismic source used for the survey is not an explosion or blasting in the ocean as purported by some, said Mantashe, adding that it is compressed air that is released into the seabed.
Mantashe said the potential impact of this to marine life has been studied over time, saying that there is currently no conclusive evidence or scientific research globally that demonstrates that seismic surveys have caused irreparable harm to marine life, including mammals and fish.
“Seismic surveys have been undertaken for decades globally in search of oil and gas. They are used for the identification of hydrocarbon bearing structures and sub-surface rock formations that might contain oil or gas,” he said.
He added that the country desperately needs the opportunity to capitalise on its natural resources, including oil and gas, as these resources have been proven to be game changers elsewhere.
“We consider the objections to these developments as apartheid and colonialism of a special type, masquerading as a concern for the protection of the environment,” said Mantashe.
He appealed to all objectors to allow South Africa to exploit its natural resources for the benefit of its citizens.
Meanwhile, Joan Gallagher of The Green Net told The Witness that Mantashe is defending old legislation and people need to ask why.
“South Africans have united to defend and protect our precious natural resources and call for a new look at what is best for us all going forward. The green new transition as demanded by COP26 (Conference of the Parties), for which South African has been allocated $8,5 billion (R136 billion) makes more sense to turn our economy around for the benefit of all and not just a select few,” said Gallagher.
Meanwhile, in a statement on Monday, Liz McDaid of the Green Connection Strategic said they believe that oil and gas exploration and production is not in the public interest.
McDaid said they wonder why the government continues to push the country towards a climate change disaster by promoting a fossil fuel economy, instead of looking at greener energy options and the economic opportunities these present.
The long-term and intergenerational damage it results in cannot be compensated for by short-term profits, she said.
“Mantashe claimed that there was no conclusive evidence or scientific research globally that demonstrates that seismic surveys have caused irreparable harm to marine life. However, in the second urgent application to interdict Shell from continuing its 3D seismic survey in the Transkei Exploration Area, testimony from various experts has been filed providing evidence of irreparable harm caused by seismic surveys,” said McDaid.
Meanwhile, Barend Fredericks of the Bigai Community Small-Scale Fishers said his community was not consulted, adding that they will fight all exploitation along their coasts and beaches.
“As indigenous South African citizens, we have a cultural right to make a living as hunter-gatherers…. And we will not allow profit-hungry corporate giants to take away our rights by destroying our oceans,” said Fredericks.