Shell & SA’s Energy Minister Lose Court Bid to Continue With Seismic Survey off Wild Coast

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  • The High Court in Makhanda has dismissed Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s (Shell) leave to appeal a ruling that temporarily halts Shell’s seismic survey off South Africa’s Wild Coast.
  • The application was dismissed earlier today with costs.
  • More than 300000 people have already signed an online petition started by Oceans Not Oil Coalition calling on South Africa’s environment minister, Barbara Creecy, Shell and Operation Phakisa to stop the survey.   
  • The applicants say the survey will destroy marine life.

Shell and South Africa’s Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Mr Gwede Mantashe brought the unsuccessful leave to appeal application in order that Shell continue with its seismic survey off South Africa’s Wild Coast. Judge Gerald Bloem ruled that an appeal of the interim interdict will have no practical effect or any prospect of success.

Shell had applied for leave to appeal Bloem’s December ruling which blocked the seismic survey pending a hearing set down for 30 May 2022. The applicants are challenging the environmental authorisation for the survey.

Environmentalists and community groups have mobilised an army of international and local marine science experts in their legal battle to stop seismic survey.

In the court challenge, Reinford Sinegugu Zukulu, director of Sustaining the Wild Coast, and representatives of Wild Coast communities have asked the court to allow them to admit affidavits of several experts which, they say, prove that the air gun barrage, “which would be blasted into the sea every ten seconds for five months, louder than a jet plane taking off,” would “likely cause significant harm to marine animals.”

The case has huge significance in that it shows that no matter how big a company is, it ignores local communities at its peril. This case is really a culmination of the struggle of communities along the Wild Coast for the recognition of their customary rights to land and fishing, and to respect for their customary processes. The Amadiba and Dwesa-Cwebe communities fought for such recognition in earlier cases, and the Makhanda High Court reminded the state and Shell today, once again, that the indigenous rights of communities are protected by the Constitution from interference, no matter how powerful the intruders are.said Wilmien Wicomb from the  Legal Resources Centre.

Before the interdict came into effect in late December last year, the world’s largest seismic ship operated by Shell Exploration and Production SA’s partner, Shearwater GeoServices, the Seismic Warrior, had started to drag up to 48 air guns methodically through 6 011km² of ocean surface from Morgan Bay to Port St Johns for a period of 5 months. The air guns fire extremely loud shock wave emissions that penetrate through 3km of water and 40km into the Earth’s crust below the seabed. The blasting causes waves of sound of up to 220 decibels to reverbrate in the surrounding ocean which may harm ecologically sensitive marine life.

Bloem summed it up in his judgement – There is no compelling reason why the appeal should be heard. In all the circumstances, it would not be in the interests of justice to grant leave to appeal against the interim judgment. 

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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