Exploration for oil or minerals is a very risky activity. And when a significant find is made there is the further risk that the terms allowed to the finder may turn out to be unexpectedly adverse. Indeed, the larger the resource proved, the more adverse these terms are likely to be. Any original successful risk-taker is hostage to the government where the discovery was made. With any potentially valuable discovery under the ground or water, what was essentially unknown will have become much more of a valuable known. Accordingly, the share of the value added allowed to the discoverer can easily become a matter of ex-post negotiation rather than a rule of previously agreed laws. Exploring for oil or gas in deep, turbulent SA waters is surely a particularly risky endeavour. Rules applying to exploration for oil or gas are still to be redrafted and voted upon. Yet despite all this inherent uncertainty — all the known unknowns — Total and its partners went ahead and explored off our coa...

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