The Grahamstown High Court in South Africa has ordered petroleum giant Shell to immediately halt its seismic survey activities along the ecologically sensitive coastline of South Africa’s Wild Coast. The decision has been welcomed by local and international environmentalists and the Animal Survival International (ASI) team alike, all of whom have strongly opposed the operation since the outset and have warned of its potentially disastrous impact on the region’s marine life.
The controversial oil and gas survey, which began on December 2 before being halted yesterday, intended to acquire information on oil and gas deposits deep beneath the ocean floor. In order to do this, it would use a 126-long vessel to drag 48 air guns across cross more than 2,300 square miles (6,000 square kilometers) of ocean, firing powerful shockwaves every ten seconds, day and night, for a period of five months, in order to produce images of any deposits. The effects of this continuous blasting on the delicate marine life of the region could be devastating and far-reaching, as our article about the Shell seismic survey explains here.
Yesterday, the Court found that Shell had failed to meaningfully engage with local communities and individuals who would be affected by the survey and was interdicted from continuing. Moving forward, the Court will need to decide whether the oil and gas giant requires environmental authorization acquired under the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) in order to continue. However, these exploration rights may too be challenged as a result of the failed consultations.
“We are thrilled with the outcome of yesterday’s court proceedings,” says ASI campaigner Tayla Lance. “While the fight to protect the Wild Coast is not yet over, it is a huge step in the right direction. We continue to campaign for a permanent ban on Shell’s damaging and invasive operations, which have shown a callous disregard for the critical and endangered marine life of the region.”
The Court ordered Shell and South Africa’s mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe to pay the legal costs of the application. During legal arguments, Shell said that it may need to abandon the entire operation if the interim interdict was granted.
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