South African court stops oil giant Shell from seismic survey along Wild Coast
Ruling found coastal communities were not properly consulted before oil company granted permit
A high court in South Africa stopped the Shell oil company on Thursday from conducting seismic blasting along the ecologically sensitive Wild Coast region in Eastern Cape province.
A group of environmental organizations, civil rights groups and coastal communities told the court that a seismic survey was dangerous to the marine environment and harmful to communities that depend on the sea for their survival.
They also wanted the court to review the decision by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy which granted exploration rights to Shell in pursuit of oil and gas in 2014 and renewed it in 2019.
The ruling by Judge President Mbenenge found that coastal communities were not properly consulted before Shell was granted the permit.
It said consultations were only done with kings, monarchs and other traditional leaders and such an approach “finds no space in a constitutional democracy” and “a chief does not denote a community.”
A statement by groups involved in the case including Natural Justice, Sustaining the Wild Coast, Legal Resources Centre and Greenpeace Africa described the ruling as a monumental victory for the planet won by Wild Coast communities.
“This victory is not just a victory for Wild Coast communities and making our voices heard. This is about protecting the planet and the whole of humanity,” Nonhle Mbuthuma of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, who was an applicant in the case, said in the statement.
Another applicant and Wild Coast resident, Siyabonga Ndovela said: “As Wild Coast people, we live off the land and the ocean. (The) government tells us that oil and gas will bring job opportunities but we know very well that this will destroy our livelihoods,” said Ndovela.
He said the ocean is the best defender against climate change, shielding the community from its worst effects.
“By helping the ocean, we help ourselves. Ocean action is climate action,” he said.