Maputo — The South African petrochemical company Sasol has relinquished its exploration licence for two blocks off the coast of the southern Mozambican province of Inhambane.
A Monday press release from Sasol said the company took the decision "following an evaluation of the exploration potential of the blocks and an assessment of the report of the pre-feasibility phase of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)".
Sasol was awarded the blocks (nos. 16 and 19) in June 2005. The release claims that, since then, "we conducted deep-water exploration activities in the license areas in a safe and environmentally responsible manner".
The company relinquished the deep water part of the licence in July 2013, but retained the shallow water area "with a view to define a future work programme to assess the remaining hydrocarbon potential".
The entire area is sensitive since it is near the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park, one of the jewels in Mozambique's wild life and tourism crown. Plans to drill for gas near the islands aroused strong opposition from environmental groups and tourism operators.
The release said that "understanding and appreciating the environmental sensitivity of the area, Sasol undertook a robust and transparent pre-feasibility assessment through Golder & Associates, an independent, reputable environmental specialist consulting firm, prior to any exploration activity. This process involved consultation with all relevant stakeholders, from government, on all levels, industry, such as tourism and fisheries, to academia".
"Sasol acknowledges all the comments received during the pre-feasibility phase of the EIA process and values the input that all stakeholders contributed", it added, effectively conceding that those comments tipped the balance against any attempt to drill.
Sasol says it will relinquish the two blocks to the Mozambican government, and has issued a withdrawal notice.
"Sustainability is integral to how Sasol conducts business, which is underpinned by our commitment to compliance with all environmental legislation and undertaking any exploration activity in an environmentally responsible manner", the release concludes.