The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) granted the appeal of Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration South Africa to explore a vast area in KwaZulu-Natal for potential gas reserves.
The appeal had been challenged by Normandien Farms, which owned some of the nearly 5 500 farms in KwaZulu-Natal Rhino wished to explore.
Rhino had applied for a petroleum exploration right in terms of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act, as it wished to conduct a desk-top and aerial survey of a vast area to identify potential sites of gas reserves.
The application was in respect of an area of just under 2 million hectares.
Normandien had successfully applied to the Western Cape High Court to review and set aside the acceptance of Rhino's application and other preliminary steps that had been taken.
The SCA, in setting aside the previous court's findings, held that the relief should not have been granted because Normandien had not been prejudiced by the steps taken and, because no final decision had been taken on Rhino’s application.
“Normandien has approached the court before any decision, according to it, has even been taken, and before it had suffered any prejudice on account of the actions complained of. It launched a pre-emptive strike against Rhino.
“It may perhaps have been best advised to ‘husband its powder’ in anticipation of the battle that may (or may not) lie ahead,” the SCA found.
The appeal was upheld with costs, including the costs of two counsel.
The Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute science adviser based in the Karoo, Jan Arkert, said Rhino Oil and Gas were pursuing the exploration of fossil fuels they knew could and would not ever be burned.
“If all the world’s current exploited oil, gas and coal reserves are utilised, it is projected that temperatures of up to 5°C will be attained.
“There is no need for the exploration for additional oil and gas reserves. This is merely an attempt by Rhino to boost their share value by extending the fossil fuel reserves they hold.
“It's a pity the SCA overturned the appeal, but the function of the courts is to determine the legal merits of the case and not the ethics of climate change,” Arkert said.
South African team leader for 350Africa.org, Glen Tyler-Davies said the judgment showed South Africa had its “back turned to the renewable energy future the country needs to be preparing for”.
“The joining of the Department of Mineral Resources with the Department of Energy is another indication that we're still thinking we can get our energy from fossil fuels. This is no longer the case.
“We will transition to renewable energy that means not putting any more money, efforts and resources into exploring fossil fuels making sure South Africa is powered by renewable energies,” Tyler-Davies said.