Acting Justice Avinash Govindjee said Shell sought to exercise an exploration right to explore for natural resources, which was granted a number of years ago and was renewed by the responsible authority. File Image: IOL
Acting Justice Avinash Govindjee said Shell sought to exercise an exploration right to explore for natural resources, which was granted a number of years ago and was renewed by the responsible authority. File Image: IOL

Shell to go ahead with blasting survey on Wild Coast

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Dec 4, 2021

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SHELL will go ahead with its seismic blasting survey along South Africa’s Wild Coast after receiving the go-ahead from the court on Friday.

Acting Justice Avinash Govindjee of the Makhanda High Court on Friday dismissed the urgent interdict brought by the Border Deep Sea Angling Association, Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club, non-profit Natural Justice and Greenpeace Africa to stop the survey, which includes airgun arrays being blasted into the ocean floor to look for oil and gas reserves.

The environmental and human rights groups had cited that the seismic activities were unlawful because the company does not have the necessary environmental authorisation.

Govindjee found that the applicants had failed to convince him that there was a reasonable apprehension of “irreparable harm” if the interdict were not granted . He said given financial and other prejudice to Shell if the seismic surveys were delayed, the “balance of convenience” was in Shell’s favour.

Govindjee said Shell sought to exercise an exploration right to explore for natural resources, which was granted a number of years ago and was renewed by the responsible authority.

“There is increasing global concern about the environment in which we live and for all creatures small and great. This case was not about the full exercise of the exploration right and the implications of that for the environment. The question was whether the seismic survey to be undertaken should be interdicted pending the final determination of the separate review application. That question has been answered in the negative,” said Govindjee.

In a joint statement released on Friday, Natural Justice’s head of campaigns and communications, Katherine Robinson, said the applicants were dismayed that the court dismissed the application without granting their request to be allowed to return to court to make further representations and present expert evidence, and awarded costs against them despite the fact that the application was made in the public interest to protect the ocean and coastal environment.

Robinson said the applicants would be discussing the judgment with their legal advisers with a view to deciding whether or not to apply for leave to appeal against these aspects of the judgment.

“The application had to be made on a hyper-urgent basis (as a consequence of Shell’s actions and the inactions of the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy) which meant that it had not been possible for experts to finalise detailed reports and affidavits by the time the application was launched,” Robinson said.

Happy Khambule, a senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager for Greenpeace Africa, said the decision to allow Shell to continue with its plans to destroy the Wild Coast was very disappointing.

“Not only will the blasting destroy precious biodiverse ecosystems, but it will also destroy the livelihoods of local communities, all in the name of profit," Khambule said.

He said the group would continue to support the nation-wide resistance against Shell and pursue the legal avenue to stop Shell.

“We must do everything we can to undo the destructive colonial legacy of extractivism, until we live in a world where people and the planet come before the profits of toxic fossil fuel companies," Khambule said.

“The outcome is very unfortunate, especially since the judge did not recognise the urgency of the interdict and the immediate threat the seismic surveys pose to the environment, marine life and local communities,” said Pooven Moodley, Executive Director of Natural Justice.

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