South Africa: Shell falls foul of indigenous rights in Wild Coast exploration

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Wednesday, 29 December 2021 15:00

Residents join a demonstration against Royal Dutch Shell's plans to start seismic surveys to explore petroleum systems off the country's popular Wild Coast at Mzamba Beach, Sigidi, South Africa, December 5, 2021. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

How do you go about consulting indigenous communities affected by proposed seismic exploration for oil and gas? Can you just ask their King?

That’s just not good enough, especially if the communities don’t speak your choice of languages, according to an interim judgement from a South African court.

Royal Dutch Shell was told on 28 December by the Grahamstown High Court in Makhanda to immediately cease its seismic blasting along South Africa’s Wild Coast to protect the rights of local communities. Judge Gerald Bloem said that Shell was under a duty to meaningfully consult with the communities and individuals who would be affected by the seismic survey. Shell has failed to do so in the case of communities who hold customary rights, including fishing rights, the judge said.