Home South African Activists dismayed as Shell wins seismic survey permission

Activists dismayed as Shell wins seismic survey permission

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Members from various environmental organisations and activists joined in protest at SLR Consulting in Newlands. SLR is a company working with Shell that is scheduled to start seismic testing on the Wild Coast for a period of five months. Picture: Armand Hough/ANA

Shell has been given the go-ahead to proceed with its seismic survey off the Eastern Cape Wild Coast. The ruling was delivered by Judge Avinash Govindjee at the Eastern Cape Division of the Makhanda High Court.

“DEVASTATED!”

This is the word applicants used to describe how they felt after the high court dismissed their urgent interdict to stop Shell from proceeding with a seismic survey off the Eastern Cape coast.

This means, despite groundswell of protests, Shell can go ahead and survey the area for gas.

The ruling was delivered by Judge Avinash Govindjee at the Eastern Cape Division of the Makhanda High Court.

The court concluded that the applicants had failed to convince him that there was a reasonable apprehension of “irreparable harm” if the interdict weren’t granted and that given the financial and other prejudice to Shell if the seismic surveys were delayed, the “balance of convenience” was in Shell’s favour.

Consequently, the judge dismissed the application with costs, including the costs of two counsel.

Earlier this week, four environmental and human rights organisations – Greenpeace Africa, Natural Justice, the Border Deep Sea Angling Association and the Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club – filed the urgent application to block the seismic survey, given the harm they said it would cause to the environment and marine life.

“Unthinkable. We’re saddened by the result but happy we did all we could under the circumstances. The seismic survey may go ahead, but there’s going to be one hellava shindig before mining starts,” says John Rance, Chair of Kei Mouth Skiboat Club (KMSBC), adding: “Shell and its shareholders should be ashamed of themselves. We should all be telling our investment advisors and pension funds to disinvest from Shell. It’s the only language they understand.”

Meanwhile Pooven Moodley, executive director of Natural Justice, said: “Our fight to safeguard the Wild Coast is not over, and our bigger struggle for climate justice, and to resist oil and gas drilling in South Africa and across the entire continent is far from over.

“As activists, civil society and lawyers, we cannot relax – the climate crisis is upon us, and fossil fuel companies accelerating the crisis are posing a serious threat to the planet, our livelihoods, human rights and very existence. We will fight them on the beaches and in court,” he said.

He added: “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.”

Reacting to the outcome, Happy Khambule, 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 is 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”.

“We will 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,” continues Khambule.

John Luef of the Border Deep Sea Angling Association said: “We are extremely disappointed with the outcome of this hearing. This is not the end, we will continue to fight for our local people, their heritage and the environment. We call on South Africans to stand together and protest this invasive and environmentally harmful seismic survey, as well as any future mining plans.”

Late Thursday, another grouping of applicants filed a second urgent interim interdict against Shell.

Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC) and several Wild Coast communities, including fisherman, traditional leaders and healers, filed papers seeking to interdict Shell’s seismic survey.

Sinegugu Zukulu, speaking on behalf of SWC, said on Thursday:

“We haven’t lost the war!! It’s just one battle – we will continue.”

SWC, together with the Dwesa-Cwebe Communal Property Association, fishermen – Ntsindiso Nongcavu (Port St Johns), Sazise Maxwell Pekayo and Cameron Thorpe (Kei Mouth) – Amadiba traditional leader and healer Mashona Wetu Dlamini and All Rise Attorneys for Climate and Environmental Justice applied for an urgent interdict against Shell’s seismic survey off the Wild Coast.

This application – separate from the urgent application brought by Cullinan and Associates that was dismissed – will be heard on December 14.

“Our application for an urgent interdict is based on the simple fact that Shell does not have an environmental authorisation in terms of the National Environmental Management Act for this survey.

“We know that this survey was approved in 2014, but it is now 2021 and we need to ensure that any illegal offshore exploration is not allowed by our government through negligence or misinterpretation of changes in law since 2014. We are calling for an immediate halt to the survey and that no seismic surveying be allowed without a proper Environmental Authorisation (EA).”

No one could confirm if Shell had already started its surveying.

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