The Bight, South Australia Image copyright Brad Leue
Image caption Drilling in the Great Australian Bight could spoil the marine environment, critics argued

Oil giant Equinor has abandoned controversial plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight in a move hailed by environmentalists as a “huge win”.

The Norwegian firm was granted approval last December to begin exploratory drills in seas off South Australia.

But on Tuesday it told regulators the plan was “not commercially competitive” compared to other options.

Australia’s government said the withdrawal was disappointing.

The Great Australian Bight, a stretch of coastline in South Australia, is said to be one of the most unspoiled marine environments in the world.

Equinor is now the third oil and gas company to have abandoned proposals for drilling in the area since 2016, after competitors BP and Chevron.

The decision has been welcomed by environmental activists and some lawmakers who had argued that oil and gas extraction would threaten wildlife and the climate.

Equinor had faced opposition to the plan from many people in the local community, as well as some investor backlash.

Australia’s government said many people would see the company’s withdrawal as “extremely disappointing” for economic reasons.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt added the nation remained committed to encouraging new drilling proposals in its waters.

“The Bight basin remains one of Australia’s frontier basins and any proposals for new oil and gas fields in this area will be assessed fairly and independently,” he said.

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