Shell's South African partner dismissed fears that seismic surveys for offshore oil and gas could endanger marine life, calling it "poppycock", while warning that halting the process could leave the country entirely dependent on crude imports.
There is no evidence that seismic testing has "had any biologically significant impact on any marine populations in areas in which surveys have been conducted anywhere in the world," Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) said in an open letter published on its website. The company is an investor in Impact Oil and Gas in which Shell owns a 50% stake.
HCI's CEO is former trade unionist and erstwhile ANC MP Johnny Copelyn. He is also the chair of eMedia Holdings, of which HCI owns a majority stake.
Shell temporarily halted its search for offshore oil and gas reserves along the Wild Coast and its vessel left South African waters after a court on December 28 granted local activists an interim interdict blocking any seismic surveys until a ruling can be made on whether further environmental authorization is required.
"Some people may believe the most important social contribution they can make is to inhibit oil exploration in South Africa, but their success will not end our demand for oil," HCI said.
"It will simply leave us completely dependent on importing it at huge cost to our foreign reserves."
This comes as Australian Geoscience data company Searcher plans to oppose a legal challenge by West Coast communities seeking to interdict its proposed seismic survey in the area.
Seismic surveys involve the use of airguns to direct sound pulses into the water - which helps with mapping out the seabed to potentially find oil or gas resources. The applicants have raised concerns of the harmful impact this will have on marine and bird life.