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South Africa: Shell defeats challenge to Wild Coast exploration plans

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Friday, 3 December 2021 11:18

REUTERS/Rick Wilking.

Royal Dutch Shell has seen off an attempt by environmental groups in South Africa to block planned seismic exploration for oil and gas off the Wild Coast.

In a decision issued today, acting justice Govindjee of the Eastern Cape Division of the Grahamstown High Court concluded that the applicants had failed to show that there was a reasonable apprehension of “irreparable harm” to the environment from the exploration work.

Given the financial prejudice to Shell if the seismic surveys were delayed, the “balance of convenience” was in the company’s favour, the judge ruled. He also awarded Shell costs against the applicants.

The ruling is “very unfortunate, especially since the judge did not recognise the urgency of the interdict and the immediate threat the seismic surveys pose to the environment, marine life and local communities,” says Pooven Moodley, executive director of Natural Justice, one of the groups that made the application.

The applicants argued the use of blasting for the exploration will destroy ecosystems, and hamper livelihoods earned through fishing and tourism. The environmental groups will discuss whether to seek leave to appeal.

Bottom Line

Awards of costs for environmental suits raises the risks for those seeking to challenge against new South African oil and gas exploration.

 

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