CAPE TOWN - Four environmental and human rights organisations have filed an urgent interim interdict against Shell in the Grahamstown High Court to prevent the petroleum giant from commencing a seismic survey along the Wild Coast due to begin on Wednesday.
This as communities continue protest actions against the survey, online petitions that have amassed hundreds of thousands of signatures as well as Express Petroleum, a fuel supplier in the Eastern Cape, cutting ties with Shell.
Activists from the Green Connection organisation on Tuesday also handed over a petition to SLR Consulting, appointed by Shell to distribute a survey notification on its behalf.
The four environmental and human rights organisations - the Border Deep Sea Angling Association, the Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club, Natural Justice and Greenpeace Africa - supported by environmental law firm Cullinan & Associates filed an urgent interim interdict on Monday afternoon.
The matter is expected to be heard in Grahamstown and argued virtually on Wednesday.
“The vessel would, for five months, fire air guns every 10 seconds through 6 011km² of ocean surface, firing extremely loud shock wave emissions that penetrate through 3km of water and 40km into the Earth’s crust below the seabed,” Greenpeace Africa said.
“Marine life on the sensitive Wild Coast would be disturbed and destroyed with many sea creatures like whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, sharks and even crabs and tiny shellfish being negatively impacted by the blasts in the coming months.
“The Wild Coast’s pristine beaches and biodiversity attract millions of tourists every year. Seismic surveys have been linked to decreased sightings of marine life and decreased catch rates for commercial fishing.”
Shell said it had noted the application and confirmed that it intended to respond.
“We are committed to safety and compliance, and have met all the obligations of the regulations. As a responsible and leading global operator, we apply stringent controls and international best practice guidelines to our operations. These best practice procedures are well established and in line with the latest worldwide research. South Africa has already had many similar surveys safely completed off our coastline by Shell and other operators,” Shell said.
Meanwhile, following the Green Connection handover of a package of objections and comments relating to the survey to SLR Consulting, they said they were considering appealing against the exploration right renewal decision in terms of s96 of the Mineral & Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002 (MPRDA), calling for a suspension of the exploration right renewal decision in terms of s96(2)(a) of the MPRDA.
The objection and comments will be collated and responded to in the final EMP, which will be submitted to Petroleum Agency South Africa (Pasa) for decision-making in early December, SLR said.
While the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) did not respond to requests for comment yesterday, it made a number of posts on social media on the matter.
DMRE said it had noted the concerns about the survey and confirmed the exploration right was granted in April 2014, allowing the holder to “acquire 3-dimensional seismic data during the survey window period which is usually from December to May, to avoid migratory marine mammals”.
“As part of the application for an exploration right, applicants were required to develop an environmental management programme.”
The department said an audit had been done in May 2020 which found that the measures in the programme “sufficiently provide for the avoidance and mitigation of potential environmental impacts”.
“The development of the upstream oil and gas industry is part of South Africa’s economic recovery strategy. Indigenous production of oil and gas will support the country’s energy security and provide an opportunity for local beneficiation of oil and gas,” the department said.