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Mining Company Abandons Plans To Drill For Oil In Great Australian Bight

Norwegian energy company Equinor is pulling out of a planned oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight after sustained pressure from environmental activists.

The move was heralded by environmentalists, who were staunchly opposed to the controversial plan to drill for oil off the coast of South Australia.

The company made it clear to the federal government the move was a commercial decision.

Equinor's local boss Jone Stangeland said the company will engage with federal and state authorities regarding its decision to discontinue the exploration program, but reiterated it still has a presence in Australia. 

"We hold an exploration permit offshore Western Australia and will maintain other ongoing interests and activities in Australia," he said.

Surfers take part in a paddle out protest rally at Bondi Beach, Sydney, in opposition to plans for Norwegian oil company Equinor to drill in the Great Australian Bight. Image: AAP

Avid environmentalist David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, described the outcome as "an incredible win for people power and nature".

In a statement, Ritter commended all the coastal communities, Indigenous traditional owners, surfers, the seafood industry, tourism operators and other local businesses on their "years of relentless campaigning".

“Never doubt the power and determination of the Australian people,” he said.

Norwegian company Equinor took over BP’s exploration licence to drill in deep waters 372km south of the Ceduna coast, but it's now the latest fossil fuel company to pull out of drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight -- following in the footsteps of BP, Chevron and Karoon Gas, which all exited the region after 2016.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt on Tuesday cited the move as being "particularly hard for South Australia".

"I know many will find Equinor's decision not to proceed with this oil exploration project extremely disappointing," Pitt said.

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Progressive think tank The Australian Institute welcomed the decision, citing research claiming 70 percent of South Australian residents would like The Bight to be granted World Heritage status -- research that contradicts statements made by Minister Pitt.

Environmental groups agree that protecting The Bight from future oil drilling endeavors would safeguard ecosystems.

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The Australian Institute said World Heritage status could protect the economic and cultural interests of South Australia and "boost its tourism which it so needs".

While Equinor moves on, Santos, Murphy Oil and Bight Petroleum still have plans to drill in the Bight.

“The only way to protect coastal communities and the Great Australian Bight’s unique marine life is to rule out drilling permanently,” Ritter said.

“The world’s climate cannot afford to open disastrous new oil frontiers.”

With AAP.