British firm Searcher gets go-ahead for seismic survey on SA’s west coast

The fishing communities of the west coast stage a demonstration against the seismic studies, in front of the High Court of the Western Cape.

  • Geoscience data company Searcher has received environmental clearance to conduct a seismic survey off the SA coast.
  • Civil society group The Green Connection plans to appeal the decision.
  • This is Searcher’s second attempt at a seismic survey on the West Coast.
  • For climate change news and analysis, go to News24 Climate Future.

Geoscience data company Searcher, which was previously barred from carrying out a seismic survey on the West Coast, may have a second chance now that it has been granted environmental clearance by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE). .

Last year, West Coast fishing communities successfully blocked Searcher’s first attempt at a survey through the courts on the grounds that the company had not properly consulted with the interested and affected parties: small-scale fishermen ladder

Searcher’s Robin Sutherland would later admit that there were “shortcomings” in the company’s previous inquiry processes. The company is based in the United Kingdom.

Searcher published a notice of its second survey request in July 2022. This time it would be carried further from the coast (more than 200 km) than the previous application, which was only 20 km from the coast.

Searcher invited the public to register as interested and affected so that they know and participate in the consultation processes that are part of the environmental authorization application.

This study area is located between St. Helena Bay and Hond

This study area is located between St Helena Bay and Hondeklip Bay on the west coast.

EIMS supplied

The controversy surrounding seismic surveys is that they involve sending sound pulses into water to trace oil and gas reserves. The alleged environmental damage of these sound pulses to marine life has been raised as an argument against seismic surveys in court applications by opponents.

Moreover, concerns have also been raised about the long-term impact of oil and gas burning on global warming, which exacerbates climate change.

In a notice published on January 6, 2023, Searcher’s environmental assessment technician, Environmental Impact Management Services, issued a notice indicating that the company received environmental clearance.

“It is reported in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation (AIA)… that the aforementioned project received environmental authorization on December 20, 2022 by the Department of Mineral Resources,” says the notice

People who wish to appeal the decision have 20 days from the publication of the announcement (January 6) to submit their requests to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment. Now there are less than 10 days left to make the presentation.

Civil society group The Green Connection will file an appeal. He is concerned that mitigation measures (or measures to reduce the environmental impact of the seismic survey) are inadequate. The Green Connection also raises concerns that the DMRE is ignoring the climate crisis by authorizing oil and gas exploration.

“A much bigger concern is that the DMRE has specifically authorized it to search for oil and gas and appears to ignore the climate crisis we face,” The Green Connection spokeswoman Liz McDaid said in a statement.

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The Green Connection also believes that studies to assess the environmental impacts of oil and gas are flawed.

“The Green Connection does not believe there will be any harm and is not satisfied with the studies that failed to adequately assess the cumulative negative environmental impacts for oil and gas,” McDaid said.

“The Green Connection does not believe that a project can be motivated by the idea that we need additional oil and gas, but then fail to consider the cumulative negative environmental impacts of that oil and gas. A seismic survey alone has no benefit , but it does have risks of harm.”

This is not the only seismic survey that communities and civil society groups are questioning. Another survey, to be carried out for Shell on the Wild Coast, was successfully blocked by a high court. That decision will now go to the Supreme Court of Appeal and could set a precedent for future cases.

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