Court stops Shell from Wild Coast exploration, for now

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Protesters at the V&A Waterfront, 21 November.
Protesters at the V&A Waterfront, 21 November.
Brenton Geach/Gallo Images via Getty Images

A court has barred Shell from going ahead with seismic blasting on the Wild Coast as part of its exploration for oil and gas, for now. 

The High Court in Makhanda on Tuesday ruled that Shell must halt its activities until a second part of an interdict is heard.

Wild Coast communities lodged an application for an urgent interdict against Shell's exploration in late November. The communities are represented by the Legal Resources Centre and Richard Spoor Attorneys and are joined by two civil society organisations that work in the area.

Shell recently started a seismic survey off the coast between Morgans Bay and Port St Johns, which involves using airguns to send pulses of sound into the water. The information collected from the sound waves bouncing back from the ocean floor will be used by scientists to determine or map out the presence of oil or gas reserves.

The area that will be covered is about 6 000km2.

Concerned parties worry that the seismic survey will interfere with marine life. Many marine animals use sound to navigate, detect food, find mates or avoid predators. Seismic surveys have been shown to damage tissue in marine mammals, cause temporary hearing loss and stress in animals.

'A real threat' 

In his judgement, Judge Gerald Bloem stated that "despite the massive body of expert evidence on the threat to harm to marine life" Shell did not provide any evidence to neutralise the representations made by the applicants.

Bloem further stated that the evidence presented established that "there is real threat that the marine life would be irreparably harmed by the seismic survey."

"In my view, the expert evidence established that there is reasonable apprehension of real harm to marine life."

Bloem also found that Shell's attempts to notify local communities of its planned exploration were "inadequate" and that its consultation process with affected communities was "substantially flawed".

"In all the circumstances, it seems to me that the exploration right, which was awarded on the basis of a substantially flawed consultation process, is thus unlawful and invalid," the ruling read.

The court ordered Shell and Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, to pay the applicants' legal costs.

The applicants against Shell include small-scale fishers from the Amadiba, Cwebe, Hobeni, Port Saint Johns and Kei Mouth communities. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Company Snapshot
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

Government tenders

Find public sector tender opportunities in South Africa here.

Government tenders
This portal provides access to information on all tenders made by all public sector organisations in all spheres of government.
Browse tenders