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Battle against offshore oil and gas exploration rages on in Saldanha after new oil rig arrives

Battle against offshore oil and gas exploration rages on in Saldanha after new oil rig arrives

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Cape Town – The battle against offshore oil and gas exploration along the South African coastline is on again, with about 50 small-scale fishers supporting eco-justice and community-based organisations protesting in Pepper Bay, Saldanha, to oppose the arrival of the Azinam/Eco Atlantic oil rig in the next few days.

The Eco Atlantic oil rig departed the North Sea on August 12 to make its way to South Africa, where it intends to drill an exploration well in Block 2B, off the West Coast, to assess the hydrocarbon potential as part of its exploration right granted by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE).

Africa Energy reported both Total and Shell recently announced significant oil and gas discoveries in the same area, off the shore of Namibia.

However, the growing opposition to offshore oil and gas exploration by small-scale fishers, eco-justice and community-based organisations came to the fore, especially as affected communities and fishers in the area said they were dissatisfied and had not been adequately informed or consulted.

Eco-justice organisation the Green Connection, together with members of small-scale fishing co-operatives and civil society organisations, hosted a national workshop over the weekend to discuss advocacy strategies to protect their livelihoods from oil and gas exploration.

The Green Connection community outreach co-ordinator, Neville van Rooy, said the key reasons for their opposition to offshore oil and gas were: the need to protect the oceans and environment and sustain small-scale fisher livelihoods; to protect their heritage, which was at risk of being eroded to satisfy elitist interests; and the lack of transparency about projects being proposed.

Walter Steenkamp, a veteran small-scale fisher from the Northern Cape seaside village of Port Nolloth, and chairperson of Coastal Links Northern Cape, said: “I am nearly 60 years old and in my 35 years as a fisherman, if there is one thing I know, it is that oil and water do not mix.”

Steenkamp appealed to the energy and environment ministers to educate affected communities about all the impacts of offshore oil and gas exploration, and meaningfully consult these people before they made decisions that could negatively affect them and their livelihoods.

The department highlighted potential impacts associated with well drilling, including disturbance of marine fauna due to the physical presence of infrastructure and actual drilling operations, temporary loss of access to fishing grounds due to the 500m safety zone around the drilling unit, and accidental release of oil and discharges during operations.

“The majority of potential impacts were evaluated during the impact assessment process, and range from low to very low significance with mitigation,” the DMRE said.


Cape Argus

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