Freedom Front Plus
Freedom Front Plus

Court rulings indicate that permission for oil and gas exploration in the Northern Cape must be revisited

It is unacceptable that despite two recent court rulings on the same matter, the government still granted a company permission to explore for oil and gas in the Northern Cape.

The reason behind this is probably the fact that the company in question, Tosaco Energy, is jointly owned in partnership by a black-economic-empowerment company and Total South Africa.

Tosaco Energy obtained permission from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, and the Petroleum Agency of South Africa to conduct seismic tests between Alexander Bay and Hondeklip Bay in the Northern Cape.

Today the public and other stakeholders have the opportunity to lodge objections to the testing.

In the FF Plus's view, it is important that people voice their objections to this seeing as the situation seems very similar to the cases of Searcher Seismic in the Western Cape and Shell on the Wild Coast where the prescribed processes, such as proper impact studies and public participation, were not followed.

In both those cases, the courts found that exploration cannot continue because legal certainty concerning the relevant processes must be established.

Recent statements by the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantasha, make it very clear that the government is stubbornly sticking to its view on exploration.

Minister Mantashe told a group of traditional leaders in the Eastern Cape that he is "determined" to allow petro-chemical companies to explore for oil and gas because it will help develop the country's economy.

In light of the recent court rulings, it is clear that the government is so determined to proceed with this that legal prescripts and processes are not adhered to.

A new environmental impact study ought to be conducted in all three cases.

At first, the seismic survey methods used to determine if oil and gas reserves are present under the ocean floor may sound harmless.

But what it comes down to is that a ship will move back and forth across an area of about six thousand square kilometres while initiating seismic waves at frequent intervals.

Specialised equipment then tracks the movement of these sound waves to construct an image of what is going on beneath the ocean floor. Consequently, the area will sound much like a battlefield for months on end and the impact this will have on marine life is not yet known.

Minister Mantashe repeatedly claimed that there is no scientific proof that seismic exploration is harmful to marine life. But the Academy of Sciences in South Africa (Assaf, an entity of the Department of Science and Innovation) recently declared the opposite.

In a statement released in January this year, the institution's Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) declared with certainty that such explorations are indeed detrimental to marine life.

In a world that is solely dependent on crude oil and natural gas to meet all its energy needs, taking such a risk may possibly have been justified.

But the reality is that renewable energy, especially the production of green hydrogen, is showing great promise to end the modern economy's dependence on fossil fuels.

At present, the reported reserves of crude oil are enough to last the world another 47 years and natural gas another 52 years. So, finding new oil and gas fields does not have the same urgency as just a decade or two ago.

It is of the utmost importance that the permission for the Northern Cape project is revoked, as in the other two cases, and that it is assessed again.




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