The regulation of offshore seismic surveys for petroleum resources in South Africa’s maritime realm

Authors Vishal Surbun

ISSN: 2616-8499
Affiliations: Lecturer, School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban; Attorney and Notary Public of the High Court of RSA
Source: South African Journal of Environmental Law and Policy 2016, p. 129 – 157


Advances in technology are transforming the way oil is found and extracted, and this has opened up the vast energy potential of South Africa’s maritime realm. In this regard, specialist hydrographic survey vessels explore the sub-sea geological formations for potential oil and gas reserves. This article considers the environmental impact of these surveys on marine ecosystems and examines the legislative framework for regulating seismic surveys under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002 (MPRDA). It then examines, in detail, the change in the legislative regime to bring the environmental authorisations — in terms of the MPRDA — to the system under the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (NEMA), and its practical application to seismic surveys. Finally, the 2012 Amendment Bill to the MPRDA and the consequences with regard to seismic surveys, are discussed.