Africa

Seychelles: Oil Exploration – Environment and Ocean Protection Come First, Says Seychelles’ President #AfricaClimateCrisis

During a presidential press conference on Monday, Seychelles' President Wavel Ramkalawan responded to a question from SNA asking for information concerning last month's announcement of a proposed agreement for oil exploration by a British oil company in Seychelles' territorial waters.

The signing of a petroleum exploration agreement with Adamantine Energy Ltd, which has its regional headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.

Ramkalawan told the press that the country is for the time being only encouraging oil exploration but protection of the environment and ocean remains key to the island nation.

His comments attracted attention and, therefore, further clarification was sought from the Minister responsible for fisheries and the Blue Economy, Jean-Francois Ferrari, who will be signing the agreement with Adamantine Energy.

Ferarri emphasised that the Blue Economy concept concerns the sustainable exploitation of ocean resources. Furthermore, 30 percent of Seychelles' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has been declared as Marine Protected Areas. Oil exploration is, however, still within the scope of Blue Economy, if it is a sustainable form of exploitation of oceanic resources.

"It will give us a second option, where should the big nations not help us in finding and implementing green energy solutions, as they promised in big international conferences, then we will have no choice, but to drill for oil," said Minister Ferrari.

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He added that for the time being though, the main focus is to find out what Seychelles has beneath its waters.

The chairperson of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), Oliver Bastienne, has welcomed Ramkalawan's statement as he had written a letter to the president stating a number of concerns that need to be addressed especially given Seychelles' stance on the environment and ocean protection.

Bastienne said that "we are happy to see that the government is reflecting hard on the matter and we do welcome the idea to use this as a means for the country to be able to benefit from such pledges."

He added that SCCI is not completely opposed to the idea of oil exploitation but that careful consideration must be taken on the matter to ensure that it does not adversely impact the Seychelles' environment and fisheries.

Bastienne sent a working paper to the president on behalf of the SCCI, and among the concerns raised were the whole process, from exploration to exploitation and how this could have immense negative consequences for the natural and business environment.

"The SCCI is of the view that exploration, drilling and other associated activity should not be undertaken near any tourism area, including high-end, investment-heavy island resorts," added Bastienne.

In 2012, the US Geological Survey (USGS) concluded an oil survey of the western Indian Ocean region including Seychelles, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mozambique. A total of 793 MMbls (millions of barrels) has been estimated to be present in the rift area of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.

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