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The Environmental Impact Assessment process is failing to protect ocean life



The EIA process is failing in its obligation to evaluate potential environmental, social and even economic costs in regard to the offshore oil and gas development stream of Operation Phakisa. Social opposition grows as stakeholder concerns have not been engaged meaningfully or even in their own language. Fears are growing that mitigation safeguards are not being properly identified or deployed due to improper EIA procedural compliance. For these reasons a meeting to establish dialogue with PASA was planned this last week and attended by a significant number of ONO affiliates and the CEO, Acting General Manager, and the Database,Legal and Technical Compliance managers of PASA. Thanks to SDCEA for organising the meeting.

PASA CEO Lindiwe Mekwe began the meeting making it clear that they were only interested in discussing procedural compliance issues. They did not believe that they had a mandate to consider climate change issues nor their unique position of being able to facilitate that change which is so desperately needed, for the benefit of all, and stop the expansion of fossil power infrastructure. They are, after all, mandated to the promotion of exploration for onshore and offshore oil and gas resources and their optimal development on behalf of government.

Please see groundWork’s Bobby Peek’s salient question addressed to the PASA team.

Stakeholders then took the floor complaining about the the failureof the EIA regime to consider ethnodiversity. All literature and public participation engagements have been conducted in English until last month. Many do not speak English with the proficiency required to fully understand the literature to grasp the implications of the project and how to address these during project planning. It is felt that this failure needs to be tackled with immediate effect for offshore oil and gas applications, the national gas pipeline project and the envisaged oil refineries, as this process is fundamentally exclusionary.

There were many submissions about higher order considerations as to future effects of greenhouse gas emissions and the acceleration of global warming of offshore oil and gas being completely ignored in the EIA process.

There were many submissions about the effects of potential spills to livelihoods and the health of the ocean.

ONO, represented by Janet Solomon, called for change in the entire oil and gas application and EIA regime:

In the Q+A she asked the following questions:

  1. Why has a cost benefit analysis not been done for the ENI/Sasol applications? If a blowout happens will tourism, recreation and leisure industries be compensated and how much?

PASA did not answer this question.

  1. There is a precedent for the minister not having concern for Protected Areas status in granting mineral rights e.g. Mabola Protected Environment is before court at the moment. The Minister granted rights in respect of this protected area. Can you please explain the limitations of a right to explore with regard to Marine Protected Areas?

Acting general manager of PASA, Tebogo Motloung responded:

  1. Only 1 South African well has ever been drilled in depths greater than 500m and Total experienced problems with this Brulpadda 1AX prospect rig operation. A key reason for this is the extremely challenging metocean conditions particular to the very strong Agulhas current. These 6 proposed wells are nearly twice as deep as Total’s.  With the oil and gas industry’s track record of pollution (ENI alone has reported Oil Spillage statistics of 4.89 million litres in operations between 2009 – 2017), the public needs to know, in detail, why PASA is so confident of the success of this project, which threatens our coast?

Technical Compliance Manager of PASA, David Aphane responded( forgive poor sound quality):

The proximity of these potential wells to our environmentally significant areas – The Maputaland and St Lucia Marine Reserves, Tugela Banks; The Natal Bite with its Crustacean trawl fisheries, Protea banks, Aliwal Shoal; iSimangaliso Wetland Park – poses a great risk to our marine commons and heritage, the economic importance of our fisheries, and leisure and tourism industries dependent on functional healthy oceans. All the above reasons warrant questioning the lack of a precautionary approach and the impact significance ratings given by this EIA, based on minimal data. In light of the above concerns it is obvious that the EIA process is deeply flawed and lacks a precautionary approach. As such OCEANS NOT OIL insisted, in the strongest possible terms, that the proposed exploration does not proceed.


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