- Petroleum giant Shell broke its silence on its contentious plans for an oil and gas seismic survey in the waters of the Wild Coast.
- Shell South Africa chair Hloniphizwe Mtolo said in the open letter that finding offshore resources could contribute to Shell's energy independence.
- Mtolo said the seismic surveys that Shell planned to conduct where safe to the ecosystem of the ocean off the Wild Coast.
Petroleum giant Shell broke its silence on its contentious plans for an oil and gas seismic survey in the waters of the Wild Coast, saying that it intended to conduct the survey in adherence with environmental requirements with minimal impact on marine life and nearby fishing communities.
The company took out an advertisement in weekly national newspaper Sunday Times to release an open letter in which they address the controversial plan. The debacle has put the issue of energy independence on a collision course with the imperative for environmental conservation.
On Saturday, nine organisations planned demonstrations by environmental activists at Shell stations, amid concerns that the survey could damage to the ecosystem of the Wild Coast in the eastern region and its wildlife.
This past week, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe slammed what he called "unrelenting attacks" on oil and gas development in South Africa. Mantashe said these "attacks" appeared to be designed to thwart economic growth and deepen unemployment in the country.
Shell South Africa chair Hloniphizwe Mtolo said in the open letter that finding offshore resources could contribute to Shell's energy independence, government's own energy as well as job development programmes.
"Our country currently remains dependent on coal, oil and gas for its energy needs. This means that, as we transition to lower and eventually zero-carbon emissions future, we need to continue to provide the energy that South Africa needs today," said Mtolo.
Mtolo said the seismic surveys that Shell planned to conduct were safe to the ecosystem of the ocean off the Wild Coast, similar to "many naturally occurring and other man-made ocean sounds".
"They (the seismic surveys) are a safe mapping technique for gathering information about whether oil or gas may be present deep below the seabed of a given area using sound waves that are directed downwards," Mtolo said.
She said about 35 seismic surveys have been conducted around South Africa's seas in recent years with no reported negative impact on marine life.
"Surveys like these have been done for over 50 years with more than 15 years of extensive scientific research. In 2020 alone there were at lease 325 seismic surveys conducted globally with no known harm to marine life as a result of these surveys," she added.
Mtolo said the survey will be conducted outside the environmental window for the migration of whales in South Africa and will be conducted up to 70km from the shore to ensure minimal impact to small scale fishing.
"We have appointed an independent team to join us onboard the ship conducting the survey who will monitor for the presence of marine mammals before, and during, the seismic activity. If we see them, we will stop and wait," said Mtolo.
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