Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
3 minute read
28 Dec 2021
8:17 am

UPDATE: Interdict against Shell’s seismic survey successful

Nica Richards

Gwede Mantashe and Shell have been ordered to pay the applicants’ costs of the application to three counsel. 

A protest outside Shells offices in Bryanston, on 1 December 2021, by Extinction Rebellion against the company's seismic survey operations along the wild coast of South Africa. Picture for illustration: McCartney

Judge Gerald Bloem on Tuesday morning handed down his judgment in the second urgent interdict to halt Shell’s seismic survey currently taking place along the Wild Coast. 

Richard Spoor Attorneys lawyer Johan Lorenzen confirmed the news to The Citizen.

According to court documents, Department of Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and Shell have been ordered to pay the applicants’ costs of the application to three counsel. 

In addition, the third, fourth and fifth respondents (Shell) are interdicted from undertaking seismic survey operations under Exploration Right 12/3/252, pending finalisation of Part B of the notice of motion. 

The application regarding determining relief sought under Part B of the notice of motion has been postponed. 

Part B of Shell’s answering affidavit deals with the nature of the seismic survey, as well as allegations of harm brought against Shell, and mitigation measures undertaken during the survey.

The first interdict was heard in the Grahamstown Court in Makhanda earlier this month, and was brought against the petroleum giant and Mantashe by Natural Justice, Greenpeace Africa, Border Deep Sea Angling Association and Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club.

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

Acting Judge Avinash Govindjee dismissed the first interdict with costs, after ruling the arguments presented by the applicants ​​were not enough to convince him that the planned 3D seismic survey should not take place. 

Govindjee said at the time the argument that marine life could be impacted by the survey was “speculative at best”, and that the balance of convenience favoured Shell. 

Shell and Mantashe were hit with a fresh urgent interdict after the first dismissal, this time by the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), Sustaining the Wild Coast and the Dwesa-Cwebe Communal Property Association.

During the hearing on 17 December, Mantashe was described as “ignorant and gravely insulting” for accusing communities living on the Wild Coast of engaging in “colonialism and apartheid of a special sort”.

Mantashe suggested in court papers the communities concerned about Shell’s seismic drilling should have exhausted all options, including an internal appeal before taking legal action.

But Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, who is representing concerned community organisations, said even if residents took the matter up through an internal appeal, Mantashe had clearly “nailed his colours to the Shell mast”.

ALSO READ: Clueless Gwede is ‘insulting’, say concerned organisations in Shell seismic interdict

The new application argues that Shell needs authorisation for the seismic survey under the National Environmental Management Act and accuses the petroleum giant of failing to adequately consult with the affected communities.

Environmental experts are arguing that the reports Shell is relying on are eight years old.

Dr Simon Elwen and Dr Tess Gridley said Shell needed to provide an up-to-date assessment in order to establish the true nature and extent of the potential harm that may arise from the seismic survey.

Expert Dr Douglas Nowacek argued the effects of the blasts “can aggregate into species-level consequences, which is of particular concern in the case of endangered populations”.

The second interdict was live streamed and heard in open court.

Additional reporting by Narissa Subramoney