Royal Dutch Shell to go ahead with seismic tests to search for oil in vital whale breeding areas along South Africa’s east coast after court dismissed 11th hour court challenge by environmental groups.
The judgment, handed down by a South African high court, allows Shell to begin shooting extremely strong sound waves within days through the relatively untouched marine environment of the rugged coast, home to whales, dolphins and seals .
Activists have filed an urgent legal challenge to the seismic survey, which was due to start on Wednesday, but the last-minute ban was rejected by a judge on Friday morning.
Environmental groups fear that oil exploration could disrupt the habitat of marine mammals and damage the ecologically diverse and sensitive environment of the rugged coastline, which borders the Eastern Cape Province.
The oil company on Thursday abandoned plans to help develop the Cambo oil field in the North Sea after criticism of the project escalated, but defended its plans for the South African coastline despite strong local opposition.
Lawyers for the South African activists, at law firm Cullinan & Associates, argued that Shell’s exploration campaign amounted to “unfair administrative action” because it was approved using an outdated approval process that had since been replaced by stricter environmental protections.
But the court ruled that the applicants had failed to prove that there was a reasonable fear of “irreparable damage” without a ban against Shell’s plans, and ruled in favor of the oil company because of the financial costs of a delay.
A spokesperson for the company said: “Shell is pleased with the court’s decision, which will help advance this seismic study. The works should start in a few days.
After the court ruling, the activists behind the legal challenge – Border Deep Sea Angling Association, Kei Mouth ski boat club, Natural Justice and Greenpeace Africa – said their fight to save the rugged coast was “far from over.” be finished ”, and declared that“ national resistance ”against Shell’s plans would continue.
Happy Khambule, a senior Greenpeace Africa activist, said: “The decision to allow Shell to continue with its plans to destroy the wild coast is very disappointing. Not only will blasting destroy valuable biodiversity ecosystems, it will also destroy the livelihoods of local communities, all in the name of profit.
“We will continue to support the national resistance against Shell and pursue the legal path to stop Shell. We must do all we can to undo the destructive colonial legacy of extractivism, until we live in a world where people and the planet come before the profits of toxic fossil fuel companies.
In a statement, Shell added that it has “a long history of collecting seismic data at sea” and has taken great care to prevent or minimize potential impacts on fish, marine mammals and marine life. other wild species.
“South Africa is heavily dependent on imported energy for many of its energy needs. If viable resources were found offshore, it could contribute significantly to the country’s energy security and the government’s economic development programs, ”he said.