17 FEBRUARY 2022
By Esther Rose
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 in the Eastern Cape province.
The interim interdict remains in place.
Shell and the minister had applied for leave to appeal Judge Gerard Bloem’s December 2021 ruling, which blocked the seismic survey, pending a hearing which was set to be heard on May 30, 2022 – that would challenge the oil company’s environmental authorisation. Wild Coast communities launched the main application in 2021 and they seek to have Shell’s exploration rights reviewed and set aside.
In 2014, a government decision granted Shell permission to pursue seismic scanning of the area situated over 20km off the Eastern Cape coast, resulting in a cascade of opposition that lasted more than seven years.
Environmentalists and Wild Coast community groups assembled an army of international and local marine science experts in their legal battle to stop Shell’s five-month seismic survey – part of its oil and gas exploration campaign – off the Eastern Cape coast.
This comes after Eastern Cape Premier Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane’s spokesperson, Khuselwa Rantjie, said “the Eastern Cape cabinet had affirmed that exploring sustainable developments is critical, if the province is to shift from being one that sends labour to other provinces, to one that creates economic opportunities for its citizens”.
South Africa’s coastline has seen several such surveys. The latest is a survey undertaken by Searcher Seismic, a geoscience data provider, serving petroleum and mining companies. It is seeking to conduct a 2D and 3D seismic rectification project between Cape Agulhas and the Namibia border. The Australian data supplier was granted a reconnaissance permit by the Petroleum Agency SA (PASA) in May 2021.