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Northern Cape residents resist seismic surveys

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Residents in coastal communities in the Northern Cape have submitted appeals against the seismic surveying along their shores, which comes just months after two seismic surveys on the shores of the East and West Coast were temporarily banned by the courts.

File picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

AT LEAST 19 appeals have been lodged following the latest energy company, Tosaco Energy’s recent decision to explore for offshore oil and gas from Alexander Bay to Hondeklipbaai in the Northern Cape.

Residents in coastal communities in the Northern Cape have submitted appeals against the seismic surveying along their shores, which comes just months after two seismic surveys on the shores of the East and West Coast were temporarily banned by the courts.

A privately owned energy company, Tosaco Energy obtained authorisation to explore for offshore oil and gas in Block 1, which starts at Alexander Bay and extends to Hondeklipbaai in the Northern Cape.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries said it had received 19 appeals against the decision of the Competent Authority (CA) to grant Tosaco Energy an environmental authorisation (EA) for their proposed seismic survey project.

“The appeals that meet the criteria for compliant appeals will be consolidated into an Appeals Response Report. Thereafter, the Appeals Directorate will send the Appeals Response Report to the applicant and to the CA for their comments and responses to the grounds of appeals, which must be provided within a period of 20 calendar days of receiving the report,” the department said.

Samantha Cloete, a resident of Kleinzee, a small village on the West Coast of the Northern Cape, said residents believed the realities of their communities should have been considered in the application.

“There is no evidence of this in this cut-and-paste document because it does not include inputs from local small-scale fishers, nor does it include inputs from our community elders.

“This is very disappointing. We hope that the authorisation will be set aside on appeal and that there will be other opportunities for our voices to be heard. However, as it stands, we are extremely dissatisfied with this entire process,” Cloete said.

The Petroleum Agency of South Africa (Pasa) said: “The Environmental Authorisation (EA) is linked to the application for exploration rights. No decision has been made on the exploration right application. As provided for in the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) Appeals’ Regulations, anyone who is disgruntled by the decision on the EA has a right to appeal to the Department of Fisheries, Forestry, and the Environment (DFFE).”

Tosaco Energy could not be reached for comment.

Small-scale fishers in Alexander Bay, Port Nolloth, Kleinzee, Hondeklipbaai, Kommagas, and The Green Connection have since lodged appeals against the authorisation.

Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy said he recently visited several communities in the Northern Cape where similar issues were being faced.

“First there is a similar lack of meaningful consultation with those who would be affected. During interactions in Kleinzee and Hondeklipbaai this week, communities said they clearly requested that Tosaco’s consultants at Environmental Impact Management Services (EIMS) come back to do proper consultation at more suitable times. The fact that most of the fishermen were not available to attend the meetings should have been an indication that they face many limitations and challenges, which should have been taken into account,” said van Rooy.

The EIMS said they understand that Tosaco Energy’s intention was to identify merit for conducting further exploration activities.

“It is our understanding that should Tosaco wish to extend their exploration activities to include drilling or other invasive exploration works which are not addressed in the current application, there would be a consequent need to apply for the relevant permissions,” it said.

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