Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
3 minute read
8 Dec 2021
10:13 am

Shell slapped with a fresh interdict application over Wild Coast seismic survey

Nica Richards

The interdict application will be heard before Judge Govindjee in the Makhanda High Court on 17 December. 

Another batch of environmental NGOs are gunning to stop Shell's seismic survey along the Wild Coast. Picture: Twitter/2OceansHelen

Petroleum giant Royal Dutch Shell is set to face another urgent interdict application by a second batch of environmental organisations, in an attempt to halt the 3D seismic survey currently underway along the Wild Coast. 

This time, the application is being brought forward by the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) and Sustaining the Wild Coast

The first application, which was dismissed in the Makhanda High Court last week, involved Natural Justice, Greenpeace Africa, Border Deep Sea Angling Association and Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club. 

ALSO READ: Urgent interdict against Shell’s seismic survey dismissed

Acting Judge Avinash Govindjee said the applicants’ argument that the effects of the seismic survey would be detrimental to marine life was “speculative at best”, and that the balance of convenience favoured Shell. 

Seismic surveys, or seismic blasting, involves loud, repetitive airgun blasts being hurtled towards the seafloor as often as every 10 seconds. 

The second interdict, directed against Shell Exploration and Production South Africa BV, Impact Africa Ltd and BG International Ltd, is asking the court to rule that companies cannot undertake seismic survey operations until they have obtained environmental authorisation, under the National Environmental Act (Nema) 107 of 1998. 

“We depend on fishing for our livelihood and incomes. If Shell finds gas or oil under the bottom of the ocean and start to mine, the drilling will release toxic metals and chemicals like mercury, lead, arsenic and barium into the water,” the ACC said in a statement earlier this month. 

ALSO READ: EXPLAINER: What’s the fuss about Shell’s seismic survey?

The committee said the world, and South Africa, had to move away from fossil fuels to avoid a climate disaster, with the Amadiba region fighting its own climate crisis. 

“Still, our government gave Shell the permission.”

According the the ACC, Shell got permission under the Minerals and Petroleum Act, but do not have environmental authorisation under Nema, making their blasting “unlawful”.

They said the first urgent interdict being dismissed was not a deterrent.

“Our court case is very clear cut. Shell doesn’t have an environmental authorisation.

“It is time for our government to respect the rights and the economies of South Africa’s indigenous communities. To respect Mother Nature, which is the mother that feeds us all. Without her, we are nothing. 

“To stop climate change in practice and not only speak about it in presidential speeches.”

ALSO READ: Fight to save the Wild Coast far from over, say Shell interdict applicants

The ACC is being represented by Sustaining the Wild Coast’s Sinegugu Zukulu, induna in the ACC’s headwoman’s council of Umgungundlovu and traditional healer, Mashona Wetu Dlamini, the Dwesa-Cwebe communal property association, representatives of local fishing communities along the Wild Coast.

In the urgent interdict’s founding affidavit, Zukulu said the following:

“All of these concerns (about the Shell seismic survey) should be understood in the context where domestic and international law is increasingly recognising the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination. Shell’s process proceeds without any recognition of these right.

“Instead, Shell acts like the colonial and apartheid powers that came before them by only approaching kings and assuming that they can speak for all their subjects.

“The Wild Coast is a place of sunning natural beauty. Unlike other coastal stretches in South Africa, indigenous people have maintained continuous possession of this land despite waves of colonial and apartheid aggression.

“This is no accident. Our ancestors’ blood was spilt protecting our land and sea. We now feel a sense of duty to protect our land and sea for future generations, as well as for the benefit of the planet.”

The applicants’ legal representative is attorney Richard Spoor.

The interdict application was to be heard before Govindjee in the Makhanda High Court on 14 December, but Shell in the interim applied for an extension of time to file their answering papers.

The interdict will now be heard on Friday 17 December.