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Another seismic survey is heading to SA waters, this time from Australia

Indian Ocean

Photo by Bloomberg

13th January 2022

By: News24Wire

  

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Just as the Amazon Warrior, a vessel that was to conduct a seismic survey off the Wild Coast on behalf of Shell, left South Africa, attention is now focused on another planned survey, this time off the West Coast.

In December, the Makhanda High Court granted an interim interdict to halt Shell’s seismic survey - pending a court ruling on whether the company requires fresh environmental authorisation, Fin24 previously reported. Judge Gerald Bloem said that evidence presented showed there is a "real threat that the marine life would be irreparably harmed by the seismic survey." He also took aim at the public consultation process followed in the granting of the exploration right, describing it as "flawed," "unlawful and invalid."

Meanwhile, an Australian geoscience data supplier Searcher Seismic was awarded a reconnaissance permit by the Petroleum Agency SA (PASA) in May last year. A reconnaissance permit allows the holder to undertake geological, geophysical or photogeological surveys and is valid for a year, according to PASA's website.

PASA did not elaborate why the project is being undertaken by Searcher - but indicated that it is a "multi-client speculative" 2D and 3D seismic survey programme, that will occur over a number of petroleum licence blocks on the West, and South-West Coasts (or between the Namibian border and Cape Agulhas). The survey could last as long as 180 days - between January and May.

The area to be covered by the permit is approximately 297 089 km2, and is 20km off the coast,  according to Searcher's environmental management plan. In terms of water depth it covers a range from approximately 100 m to over 4500 m.

Civil society organisation We Are South Africans claim that Searcher will also allegedly use seismic blasting, which involves blasting sound pulses into the water with the aim to map out the presence of oil and gas reserves.

In the Shell case, activists warned of the harmful impacts on marine life such as whales and turtles. We Are South Africans believes the Searcher survey would impact certain species found along the West Coast - such as the African penguin, blue whales, orcas, sea turtles. The organisation also raised concerns of the impact on the tourism industry as well as fishing communities along the West Coast. We Are South Africans also claims that there is no news article that can be found to alert the public on a commenting process related to the survey.

The organisation is also in the process of filing a court application to interdict it. According to We are South Africans, the survey is expected to start on 15 January. The organisation has so far gathered 6 000 signatures as part of a petition against the survey. 

In response to questions from Fin24, PASA indicated that at the time the reconnaissance permit application was lodged in April 2021, there was no legal requirement for environmental authorisation, in terms of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations.

"Activities requiring the reconnaissance permit were only listed in the amended EIA Regulations gazetted in June 2021 and the amended regulations do not apply retrospectively," said PASA.

Searcher however still prepared the environmental management plan which indicated how it intends to manage potential environmental impacts from the survey. PASA was satisfied with the plan.

According to the environmental management plan, there is a need for exploration activities to detect hydrocarbon resources - which can support the country's energy mix. The proposed project would potentially allow South Africa to make the most of these indigenous resources, as opposed to having to import them.

Edited by News24Wire

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