New deadline for public to comment on Pletmos Basin exploration

Report by: YOLANDÉ STANDER

After overwhelming response to plans for conducting a seismic survey to explore for gas and oil reserves off the Plettenberg Bay coast, the public comment period for its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been extended - YOLANDÉ STANDER reports

THE project is part of an application for an exploration right for the Pletmos Basin by Sungu Sungu Oil through which the Petroleum Agency South Africa (PASA) instructed the company to undertake an EIA.
This process - which is being undertaken by SRK Consulting - is currently in the public participation phase which saw a meeting being held with interested and affected parties at the Piesang Valley community hall in Plett on May 3.
And after an overwhelming response from the public at the meeting, including a request by stakeholders to extend the public comment period, SRK made a submission to PASA to extend the deadline.
On Monday PASA granted the extension from May 16 to June 15.
The project involves a 3D seismic survey in the Pletmos Basin located off the southern coast of South Africa, roughly between Knysna in the west and Jeffrey’s Bay in the east.
The target area is located about 12km offshore and reaches up to 60km out to sea just east of Plettenberg Bay and just west of Cape St Francis - an area of about 2500km² in the basin.
According to the EIA report, offshore seismic surveys are undertaken with purpose-built or converted vessels from which sound sources - which are typically pneumatic devices (airguns) that can release high-pressure air into the surrounding water and the seabed - is towed.
The EIA report revealed that several types of wastes, emissions and discharges would be generated during the seismic survey including noise emissions from the airguns and air emissions from the seismic vessel’s engines and generators, as well as a supply boat, chase boats and helicopters.
The EIA found that the seismic survey would result in “unavoidable adverse environmental impacts, although these are of relatively limited extent”.
This, experts said, was due to the limited footprint of the target area, the relatively short duration of the survey, and the transient nature of the seismic survey, in other words, no physical infrastructure will be installed.
They found that none of the adverse impacts were considered unacceptably significant and that all could be managed to tolerable levels through the effective implementation of the recommended mitigation measures.
The most concerns raised during the May 3 meeting included the possible impact on the country’s largest Marine Protected Area, the Tsitsikamma MPA, situated near the proposed activity.
Other issues that were highlighted included the possible impact on tourism - an industry on which the town heavily relies on.
Garden Route Media