Shell, Mantashe lose court bid challenging Wild Coast seismic survey interdict

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Concerned citizens objected to Shell's planned seismic off the Wild Coast by means of protests and petitions.
Concerned citizens objected to Shell's planned seismic off the Wild Coast by means of protests and petitions.
Brenton Geach/Gallo Images via Getty Images
  • The Makhanda High Court has dismissed Shell and Minister Mantashe's application for leave to appeal.
  • Judge Gerald Bloem is of the view an appeal would have no prospects for success.
  • Furthermore, an appeal of the interim interdict will have no "practical effect," says Bloem.

The High Court in Makhanda has dismissed Shell and Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe's application for leave to appeal a ruling that temporarily halted a seismic survey off the Wild Coast.

The interim interdict remains in place.

Judge Gerald Bloem made the ruling on Thursday. The application was dismissed with costs.

Shell and the minister had applied for leave to appeal Bloem's December ruling, which blocked the seismic survey, pending a hearing - set down for 30 May - that will challenge the oil company's environmental authorisation. Wild Coast communities had launched the main application last year and they seek to have Shell's exploration right to be reviewed and set aside.

Shell's environmental management programme indicates that the window to conduct the survey is between 1 December and 31 May every year, until 10 August 2023.

The court was informed that Shell would not undertake the seismic survey before 31 May 2022, if it is allowed to do so. The company instead would carry out the survey between December 2022 to May 2023, provided it is allowed to do so.

Bloem was of the view that refusing leave to appeal would not have an effect on Shell's plans - given that the survey wouldn't be conducted before November 2022: 

It means that, even if leave to appeal be granted and the main application be dismissed, Shell will not conduct a seismic survey before the end of November 2022, approximately 10 months away. The refusal of the application for leave to appeal will accordingly not have any effect on Shell until the end of November 2022.

The judgment on the main application would be delivered "long before" the end of November 2022, even if the hearing is to be postponed from 30 May, Bloem noted.

"In the circumstances, an appeal against the interim judgment will have no practical effect, certainly not before 1 December 2022. The application for leave to appeal should be dismissed on that ground alone," the judgment read.

Given the arguments brought before him, Bloem said that he is of the view an appeal would have no reasonable prospects for success.

"[T]here is no compelling reason why the appeal should be heard. In all the circumstances, it would not be in the interests of justice to grant leave to appeal against the interim judgment," he added.

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