Human rights groups sound alarm over massive Woodside Energy project proposed off Senegal coastline

Media release, 1 May 2019: Woodside Energy is expected to face questions at their Annual General Meeting this Thursday regarding a large new oil project off the coast of Senegal, with human rights groups ActionAid Australia and Jubilee Australia sounding the alarm over the greenfield fossil fuel development. The massive proposed development, which could be funded by taxpayers through Australia’s Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (Efic) would have dire consequences for the environment and could seriously undermine human rights and gender equality, whilst being unlikely to deliver economic benefits to local communities in Senegal.


In a recent submission to Efic, ActionAid, Jubilee and Caritas said that the deep water offshore oil development, slated to go ahead in 2020, was significant, controversial and high-risk. A number of key concerns have been raised, centering on the project’s flagrant disregard for international efforts to address climate change, the fact that it will put an extremely sensitive ecosystem at risk, and the potentially catastrophic impact should an oil spill occur. In addition, the groups have questioned the likelihood of the project having any benefits to the Senegalese economy.

“This would be the first ever offshore oil development in an environment that is extremely sensitive and on which many communities rely on for their livelihoods and food security. If this project goes ahead, it could have potentially devastating consequences for Senegal’s coastal communities, and especially women, who are already struggling to feed their families due to the pressures of overfishing and climate change,” said ActionAid’s Head of Policy and Campaigns Lucy Manne.

“Efic, as an Australian government agency making loans underwritten by taxpayers, should be backing projects that support our commitments to gender equality, climate action, and human rights. This large, risky offshore oil venture is clearly not a good investment and Efic should rule it out,” said Lucy Manne.

According to Jubilee Australia Executive Director Luke Fletcher, “if an oil spill were to occur, it would be devastating for coastal communities, the rich marine and coastal ecosystems, and the Senegalese economy as a whole. But it’s not just Senegal that could suffer – it’s clear from the project’s own oil spill modelling that it would also devastate the coastline of neighbouring countries including the Gambia.

“Even if a major spill did not occur, it is likely that Woodside’s venture will have unacceptable consequences for local communities and the environment through minor spills, discharge of chemicals and drill cuttings, and noise pollution.”

A joint submission to EFIC compiled by ActionAid, Jubilee and Caritas, highlighted the below key findings, which are available here:

  • The project will unlock a huge new fossil fuel resource and is inconsistent with international efforts to limit global warming.
  • The project is unlikely to deliver significant, if any, benefits to the Senegal economy.
  • The project will put an extremely sensitive ecosystem at risk, with potentially dire consequences for local people and the environment.
  • The impact of an oil spill would be catastrophic not just for Senegal but for neighbouring countries as well – but these countries have not been consulted.
  • Even if an oil spill did not occur, this project would cause significant negative impacts for local communities and the environment.

The Woodside AGM on Thursday presents an opportunity for stakeholders to engage with the company, and to express concerns and ask questions related to its proposed new venture in 2020.