ENVIRONMENTAL activists across the province have vowed to fight the exploration of oil and gas off the KZN coast. This follows the Department of Mineral Resources’ decision to grant Sasol Africa and Eni South Africa authorisation to drill up to six exploration wells just 62km off the coast of Richards Bay.
Sasol and Eni are seeking to explore for hydrocarbons on the east coast, Durban and Zululand basins within off-shore block ER236. Sasol said the Durban and Zululand basins are of interest because they sit at the southern end of the Mozambique channel and following significant discoveries made in the north of Mozambique.
They said it will have many positive benefits for South Africa and the broader region in terms of energy security and increasing levels of international investment.
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), which had previously held a number of public meetings, including in Richards Bay, expressed disappointment at the department’s decision despite a public outcry.
‘We will be appealing the decision and have begun compiling our objection,’ said SDCEA Project Manager, Sherelee Odayar. She said not only will the drilling have a huge impact on marine life, it will affect the livelihoods of thousands of people.
‘When oil spills occur they can bring catastrophic harm to marine life and devastating losses for local businesses. Even routine exploration and drilling activities bring harm to many marine species.
‘Expanded off-shore drilling poses the risk of oil spills ruining our beaches, bringing harm to those who live, work and vacation along the coasts, as well as harming habitats critical to plants and animal species,’ Odayar said.
Coastwatch KZN has also called for the support of various organisations, communities and affected parties to take a stand. ‘The biggest issue of all is climate change and the need to get off fossil fuels, not drill for more. ‘We encourage everyone to take a stand and fight for our marine environment and the cascading effects of climate change,’ the non-profit organisation said.
The Oceans Not Oil organisation argued that the alternative to drilling is the development and use of renewable energy. ‘It is our view that this option has not been granted enough consideration,’ the organisation said. The public has until 30 September to submit written objections.