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Fossil fuel company applies to “dump” oil rigs in Bass Strait

Updated: May 7

Multinational fossil fuel company Esso has applied to “dump eight toxic oil rigs” into the Bass Strait, says environmental group Friends of the Earth.

Looking out to the Bass Strait from Inverloch Surf Beach, Victoria. Photo: Joanna Beard, 2024.

Friends of the Earth is a national grassroots group that supports causes such as climate justice, gender equality and Indigenous land rights.

The group is calling Esso’s proposal a “toxic fish factory”, claiming the oil rigs contain harmful levels of asbestos, mercury and lead.

Esso’s Rigs to Reef scheme would remove most of the oil platforms but would leave behind steel pylons that house “thriving marine ecosystems.”

In a media statement from Esso, they said the pylons are beneficial to the ocean environment and are “completely covered in marine life.”

“[The pylons are] a source of food for over 55 species of fish and larger marine fauna such as seals and sharks.”

“The steel piled jackets are 98% iron and do not contain any mercury, lead, cadmium, asbestos or Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM).” 

Friends of the Earth representative, Jeff Waters, said he would like to see Esso prove the sea life on the pylons isn't “contaminated.”

“They’re using their own science,” Waters told The Swanston Gazette.

“There are plenty of toxins left behind, the mud and sand around the rigs have been tested and found to be contaminated.”

In September last year, Esso was applauded for their decision to retire their Rigs to Reef scheme which would see the oil platforms completely removed.

But Waters said Esso had only intended to remove 5 of the 13 oil platforms, leaving the other 8 behind.

The “invaluable” Gippsland coastline where Meg Hynes grew up. Inverloch Surf Beach, Victoria. Photo: Joanna Beard 2024.

Meg Hynes, a 5th generation Gippsland resident and former Bass Coast Young Leader said Rigs to Reef is “greenwashing at its finest.”

“The scheme sounds like a classic case of laziness and greed at the expense of the environment,” they said.

“For myself, and many other people who grew up learning and playing on the Gippsland coastline, this place is invaluable.”

“My entire community exists because of these oceans, our towns are supported by tourism, our families are held together by memories of this ocean.”

Friends of the Earth is urging the public to sign their petition to the federal government to stop Esso’s proposal from going ahead.


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