Australian geoscience company starts seismic survey off West Coast despite opposition

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Coastal communities on 23 January held a nationwide protest against oil and gas exploration off the West Coast, says The Green Connection.
Coastal communities on 23 January held a nationwide protest against oil and gas exploration off the West Coast, says The Green Connection.
Twitter/The Green Connection
  • Geoscience data company Searcher, has started its seismic survey off the West Coast, the Petroleum Agency SA (PASA) confirmed.
  • The "multi-client" survey programme covers a number of petroleum licence blocks off the West Coast and companies such as PetroSA, Total and Shell hold existing rights in the permit area.
  • Searcher intends to oppose a legal challenge by West Coast communities, fisheries and civil society organisations to interdict the survey.

Australian geoscience data company Searcher has started its seismic survey off the West Coast of the country, Petroleum Agency SA (PASA) has confirmed.

The company has proceeded with the survey despite there being a legal challenge to block it.

"The acquisition of the seismic data has commenced," PASA said in response to questions from Fin24.

Last week 14 applicants - including West Coast fisheries and residents as well as civil society organisations We Are South Africans and The Green Connection - filed an urgent court application to interdict the survey, pending a legal challenge of Searcher's reconnaissance permit that was granted by PASA in May 2021.

Searcher on Monday filed a notice to oppose the application. Its lawyer, Roy Barendse of firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, said the matter is pending in court, and as such, Searcher does not have comment. But the company will consider issuing a media statement in "due course".

We Are South Africans founder Gilbert Martin earlier on Tuesday informed Fin24 that he has confirmation from the company that the survey has started.

The MarineTraffic app on Tuesday showed that the vessel conducting the survey, BGP Pioneer, is moving in the reconnaissance permit area off the West Coast.

The permit area is approximately 297 087m2. It covers a number of petroleum licence blocks off the west and southwest coasts of South Africa (stretching between the Namibian border and Cape Agulhas). PASA previously told Fin24 that the permit provides for the undertaking of a "multi-client" two-dimensional and three-dimensional speculative seismic survey programme.

Asked about which companies the project is being undertaken for, PASA on Tuesday confirmed that the reconnaissance permit area overlaps with existing rights held by state-owned PetroSA and international giants Total and Shell. Others include Sungu Sungu, Sezigyn, Rhino Oil and Gas, Sunbird Energy, Africa Oil Corp, Azinam, and Ricocure.

Click here to view the full map of current exploration activities in South Africa.

Seismic surveys involve the use of airguns to direct sound pulses into the water - to map out the sea bed and possibly detect oil and gas resources. The applicants have raised concerns of the harmful impact this will have on marine and bird life.

PASA is one of the respondents in the matter and is currently studying the court papers, before consulting on the way forward.

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