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December 29, 2021

South African high court orders Shell to halt offshore seismic survey

Environmentalists are concerned that the seismic waves could harm local marine life.

A South African court has ordered Royal Dutch Shell to immediately halt seismic survey for oil and gas exploration in the country’s Wild Coast in the Indian Ocean.

Local communities and environmentalists are concerned that the seismic waves could harm local marine life and climate.

Earlier this month, acting justice Govindjee at the Eastern Cape Division of the Makhanda High Court had dismissed an urgent application of activists to stop Shell’s survey in the pristine Wild Coast.

Govindjee had then said that the applicants could not prove that the seismic survey would pose “irreparable harm” to marine species.

However, the latest ruling by the Grahamstown High Court in Makhanda not only ordered a halt to the seismic blasting, but also asked Shell and the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy to pay the application costs for the interim interdict.

This  interim interdict will stand until a decision is made on whether the firm requires further environmental authorisations for conducting seismic survey.

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In the latest ruling, judge Gerald Bloem said the oil firm was awarded exploration right on the basis of a ‘substantially flawed consultation process’.

He added that Shell failed to consult with the applicant communities impacted by the seismic survey as they hold customary rights, including fishing rights.

Shell, however, maintained that it has been using seismic survey for decades for oil and gas search, reported Bloomberg.

Shell spokesman was cited by Reuters as saying: “We respect the court’s decision and have paused the survey while we review the judgment.

“If viable resources were to be found offshore, this could significantly contribute to the country’s energy security.”

Furthermore, South Africa Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe have defended Shell’s activity.

The minister claimed that a dozen seismic surveys were carried out in the past five years.

Shell may appeal against the interim interdict.

The applicants included Greenpeace Africa, Natural Justice, the Border Deep Sea Angling Association and the Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club.

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