Royal Dutch Shell will go ahead with seismic testing to search for oil in vital whale breeding areas along the east coast of South Africa after a court dismissed an 11 a.m. legal challenge by environmental groups.
The judgment, handed down by a South African high court, allows Shell to begin firing extremely loud sound waves within days through the relatively untouched marine environment of the Wild Coast, home to whales, dolphins and seals. .
Activists filed an urgent legal challenge against the seismic survey, which was due to start on Wednesday, but the last-minute ban was overturned by a judge on Friday morning.
Green groups fear that oil exploration will disrupt the habitat of marine mammals and damage the ecologically diverse and sensitive environment of the Wild Coast, 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 escalating criticism of the project, but defended its plans for the South African coastline despite strong local opposition .
Lawyers for the South African activists, from the law firm Cullinan & Associates, argued that Shell’s exploration campaign amounted to “unfair administrative action” because it had been approved using a process of outdated approval that had since been replaced by stronger environmental protections.
But the court found that the claimants had failed to prove that there was a reasonable apprehension of “irreparable harm” without prohibition against Shell’s plans, and ruled in favor of the oil company because of the financial costs of a delay.
A company spokesperson said, “Shell is pleased with the court’s decision, which will help move this seismic study forward.” Work 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 wild coast was “far to be finished”, and said that a “national resistance” against Shell’s plans would continue.
Happy Khambule, a Greenpeace Africa campaign manager, said: “The decision to allow Shell to proceed with its plans to destroy the wild coast is very disappointing. Not only will blasting destroy valuable biodiversity ecosystems, but 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 planet come first. the profits of toxic fossil fuel companies.
In a statement, Shell added that it had “extensive experience collecting offshore seismic data” and took great care to prevent or minimize potential impacts on fish, marine mammals and other species. wild.
“South Africa is highly dependent on energy imports 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.