Small-scale fishers cheer Total’s postponement of gas drilling
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Cape Town - Small-scale subsistence fishers and their civil society organisation partners Green Connection are celebrating the decision by French oil giant Total E&P South Africa (Tepsa) to postpone their application for additional drilling and associated activities offshore of Mossel Bay.
Green Connection spokesperson Liziwe McDaid said: “Tepsa’s announcement of withdrawal can be seen as a victory for the communities and environment around the area. As interested and affected parties, we have always been against any drilling for oil or gas activity in our oceans.
“While we are happy for the news, we are still concerned that oil and gas exploration continues in other areas, since the email we received speaks of a postponement, not a cancellation.
“Tepsa did not provide any reasons for their withdrawal from the project, which leaves us to wonder what their future intentions are. We would like Tepsa to be transparent and give our communities some clarity about their intentions going forward.”
As a result of Tepsa’s move, the environmental and social impact assessment process has also been terminated, which means that if they do return, they will need a further environmental impact assessment.
Fishing communities and lobby groups such as Masifundise and Coastal Links South Africa have been taking to beaches along South Africa’s coastline to inform the public of the threat to the ocean from oil and gas drilling and exploration.
In a statement, Masifundise said: “Small-scale fishing activities are an integral part of many coastal and inland communities. They represent a significant source of income and form part of their livelihoods.”
In October last year, Total announced a significant discovery of gas reserves at its Luiperd drilling site off the coast of Mossel Bay. Both this discovery and the Brulpadda well, which was discovered in 2019, have been cited as a great investment and infrastructure opportunity for South Africa and the Western Cape, in particular.
In November, the standing committee on finance, economic opportunities and tourism visited, Mossel Bay to receive a progress update. Committee chairperson Deidré Baartman wrote to Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe urging him to fast-track the finalisation of the Upstream Petroleum Resources Development Bill.
Baartman said the bill, which outlines the national government’s position on South Africa’s petroleum resources, would provide international companies such as Total with the legislative and policy certainty they need.
Total had not responded to a request for comment by the time of going to print.