An oil and gas exploration ship off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa

Oil and Gas Drilling Licences Off South African Coast Cause Outrage

3 mins

The approval comes after the government rejected appeals challenging further exploration for offshore oil and gas

South Africa’s environment ministry has given the go-ahead for TotalEnergies to drill offshore for oil and gas, after rejecting an appeal from more than a dozen individuals and lobby groups challenging the decision.

Campaigners say the exploitation will put Africa into a climate crisis and is a huge missed opportunity to develop clean energy.

Appeals to stop the French firm from drilling in Block 5/6/7 located offshore the southwest coast of South Africa, between Cape Town and Cape Agulhas, are the latest in a series of actions seeking to halt energy companies exploring for new offshore discoveries at the southern tip of Africa.

TotalEnergies has been looking to explore for oil and natural gas in Block 5/6/7, located offshore the southwest coast of South Africa, between Cape Town and Cape Agulhas.

Campaigners sought to persuade environment minister Barbara Creecy to set aside the environmental authorisation granted to the energy company by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy in April, on grounds ranging from marine noise and oil spills to climate change and insufficient public consultation.

But Creecy dismissed their concerns in a 144-page ruling.

‘I am therefore satisfied that the impacts of noise and light have been adequately assessed and mitigated to ensure low impacts on the receiving environment. As such this ground of appeal is dismissed,’ she said.

One of the appellants, Climate Justice Charter Movement, said Creecy’s decision was ‘disappointing but unsurprising’.

‘There are cleaner alternatives that we can use. Why are we not harnessing them instead of having fossil fuels forced on us?’

Neville van Rooy, Community Coordinator for Green Connection

‘The decision by the minister will be challenged, it is irrational and ignores climate science,’ it said.

Oil and Gas Demonstrations

In other protests, environmental activists picketed outside the national parliament  building with members of Extinction Rebellion, 350 Africa, Green Connection, Project 90 by 2030, and African Climate Alliance chanting ‘Umhlaba ngowethu, ulwandle lolwethu’ which translates as, ‘Land is ours, sea is ours’.

The coastal waters of South Africa accommodate a rich diversity of species of which five marine fauna make up the most notable. Known as the Marine Big Five, they are the great white shark, the southern right whale, the bottlenose dolphin, the Cape fur seal, and the African penguin.

For years harmful industrial activities like overfishing and now the gas and oil industry, have been killing marine life and destroying ecosystems. This has left the ocean in imbalance and is affecting all life in South Africa’s waters.

Community Coordinator for Green Connection, Neville van Rooy, said, ‘We were shocked to hear of these decisions. We have the right to a clean ocean.’

Glen Tyler-Davies, a member of 350 Africa, said, ‘We are trying to power up climate justice and renewable energy. We have an amazing opportunity to not only avoid the impacts of climate change but also to power up community and social owned energy through renewable energy. Our parliamentarians need to seize this opportunity and stop the destruction.’

He said these oil and gas ventures are to run for about 20 years which will put Africa in a climate crisis.

‘There are cleaner alternatives that we can use. Why are we not harnessing them instead of having fossil fuels forced on us?’ he asked.

TotalEnergies, which discovered two massive gas fields off South Africa in 2019 and 2020, has an  area of interest of around 10,000 square km located roughly between Cape Town and Cape Agulhas. This is around 60 km from the coast at its closest point and 170 km at its furthest, in water depths between 700 metres and 3,200 metres.

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