Keep in mind EC coastal wildlife

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I REFER to the leading article in The Herald dated November 8 (“Search for oil in Bay begins”). Algoa Bay and the Transkei Wild Coast are ecologically sensitive areas, and any exploration activities need fully to take this into account even to the extent of setting up a substantial “trust fund” to cover any likely mishaps resulting from such activities.

It is worthy to note, according to Wikipedia, the NGO BirdLife’s fact sheet states that the Algoa Bay islands are home to 43% of the global population of the African penguin, the majority of which are on St Croix Island. Bird Island is one of only six breeding sites in the world for the Cape gannet.

Other endangered species found on the Algoa Bay islands are the kelp gull, African oystercatcher as well as 20% of the planet’s Antarctic tern that roost on the islands in winter. It is also home to Cape fur seals.

Oddly enough the Colchester-Nanaga area falls within the greater Addo Elephant National Park, home to the big seven.

How a licence could be granted to explore within a national park beats me.

Iscor were denied permission to explore for high grade coking coal in the Kruger National Park in the 1980s and ’90s. In that instance considerable reserves were known to exist in the target area.

The case for finding viable deposits of oil in Algoa Bay is tenuous at best.

Back in the 1960s, Soekor did prove the presence of small pockets of oil and gas, but mostly the possibility of finding economic quantities of hydrocarbons remains remote. Firstly these have to form in sedimentary basins (which do exist in the strata of Algoa Bay), but more importantly the primordial oil and gas that may have formed require good porosity of host rocks and a favourable structure to become “trapped” in large enough pockets to make their exploitation viable.

To the best of my geological knowledge none of these exist in the Algoa Bay region. As for the Transkei Wild Coast area the chances are even more remote.

The present day southeastern coastline would mark the boundary between East and West Gondwanaland – the ancient supercontinent of which Southern Africa was part. It broke up during the late Cretaceous period (70 million years ago) and all that remains of the original wide continental shelf today is a very narrow continental edge 20 to 30km wide with most of the original sedimentary basins (and any hydrocarbons) drifting away under the Antarctic ice. Side scan sonar of the Wild Coast sea bed attests to this sharp drop-off.

Sedimentary basins possibly containing oil would be deeply tucked away below the thick Antarctic ice of the Weddell Sea.

Back to that “trust fund” I suggested should be set up in to mitigate any damage that might be caused to the environment. Let’s remember that the cost to date of cleaning up BP’s Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico exceeds $40-billion (R403.7-billion).

I wonder if Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu gave sufficient consideration before awarding the exploration permits. We all have a duty to future generations. Algoa Bay and surrounds is unique and one of the most beautiful spots on the planet.

Nick Stavrakis, East London

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