A new study has confirmed the presence of oil and gas in the Maldives, but it is not yet clear if fossil fuel extraction is economically viable, Fisheries Minister Mohamed Shainee has said.
The geological survey, carried out by a team of scientists at the University of Hamburg, adds to studies done by Elf Aquitaine and Royal Dutch Shell in the 1970s and 1990s, respectively, both of which confirmed the presence of oil and gas, but deemed the venture uneconomical.
Oil exploration is among President Abdulla Yameen’s key campaign pledges and is among the five-mega projects that the government is seeking investments in.
Shainee traveled to Hamburg to receive the study and held a press conference upon his arrival in Malé last night. The study shows locations where gas seeps to the surface, and further studies will be required to assess the volume of reserves, he said.
The minister declined to share the study with the media.
Two British and Norwegian firms have already expressed interest in surveying, he said. The cabinet’s economic council will decide on a partner upon receiving proposals.
Shainee alluded to attempts by the opposition to obstruct fossil fuel exploitation in the Maldives saying: “I do not want to point fingers. But these complaints are the same that we first received, the same complaints are now being raised through foreign parties.”
Some 20 NGOs in February urged President Yameen to stop plans for oil exploration in Maldivian waters. The venture will risk the country’s economic and environmental health, they said.
Local environmental groups opposed to the move say exploring for fossil fuels is hypocritical, as the Maldives is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world.
The Maldives is the chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a coalition of member states that advocates against climate change. The AOSIS advocates for a global transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.