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High Court ruling on Shell offshore prospecting appealed

COMMUNITY, environmental and human rights groups have filed leave to appeal the High Court’s ruling that had found there was no reasonable apprehension that Shell’s seismic blasting in the Wild Coast would cause irreparable harm. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

COMMUNITY, environmental and human rights groups have filed leave to appeal the High Court’s ruling that had found there was no reasonable apprehension that Shell’s seismic blasting in the Wild Coast would cause irreparable harm. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

Published Dec 22, 2021

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COMMUNITY, environmental and human rights groups have filed leave to appeal the High Court’s ruling that had found there was no reasonable apprehension that Shell’s seismic blasting in the Wild Coast would cause irreparable harm.

The Border Deep Sea Angling Association, the Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club, Natural Justice and Greenpeace Africa, who lost their application for an urgent interdict to stop Shell’s seismic blasting earlier in December, are appealing because this is an issue of substantial public importance.

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“They believe there are reasonable prospects of an appeal court finding: that Shell did not undertake the consultations which its own environmental management programme (EMPr) obliged it to take, that the risks of harm to marine life are real and not speculative, and that there was a reasonable apprehension that the blasting would do irreparable harm if the interim interdict was not granted,” said the groups said yesterday.

Judge Avinash Govindjee of the High Court in Makhanda earlier this month dismissed an urgent interim interdict lodged by the Border Deep Sea Angling Association, the Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club, Natural Justice and Greenpeace Africa, to prevent Shell’s seismic blasting off the Wild Coast.

He ordered the applicants to pay the legal costs of Shell and the Minister of Minerals and Energy Gwede Mantashe. Mantashe this month said he considered objections to the survey “as apartheid and colonialism of a special type”, masquerading as an interest for environmental protection.

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The groups are arguing that the court should have issued a rule nisi directing the parties to return to court for a more in-depth hearing.

“They also contend the court should have granted an interim interim interdict to stop Shell starting the seismic survey before that hearing, and should not have made a punitive costs order when they were acting in the public interest,” said the groups.

The applicants had applied to the High Court to stop the blasting until they could return to court with more expert evidence of the harm that would be caused, and to argue that Shell did not have the necessary environmental authorisation under the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).

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The application will be made to Judge Govindjee, who will have to decide if the applicants are given leave to appeal.

“If the judge grants the applicants leave to appeal, it will most likely be to a ’full bench of the Eastern Cape High Court. The date for the initial appeal application hearing has not been set but is likely to be in early 2022,” said the environmental rights groups.

The appeal comes days after the High Court in Makhanda considered a second interim interdict to stop Shell from proceeding with its seismic survey in the Wild Coast.

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Judge Gerald Bloem reserved judgement on Friday in the second interdict to stop Shell’s seismic blasting. The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and Richard Spoor Attorneys brought the urgent interdict on behalf of the Amadiba, Dwesa-Cwebe, Port Saint Johns and Kei Mouth communities.

The LRC argued that numerous leading experts confirmed that the blasting would cause significant and irreparable harm to marine life in the affected area and will impact the livelihoods, constitutional rights and customary rights including customary fishing rights of coastal communities.

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