A South African high court has dismissed an urgent application to block Shell from proceeding with a seismic survey off the Eastern Cape coast.
The ruling was delivered by acting judge Avinash Govindjee at the Eastern Cape Division of the Makhanda High Court last week.
Earlier this week, four environmental and human rights organisations – Greenpeace Africa, Natural Justice, the Border Deep Sea Angling Association, and the Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club – filed an urgent application to block the seismic survey, given the alleged harm it would cause to the environment and marine life.
The applicants wanted the seismic survey – which will take place off the coast between Morgans Bay and Port St Johns – to be halted until a judicial review of Shell’s environmental authorisation is complete.
Shell and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy – the respondents in the matter – both argued that the applicants failed to demonstrate urgency. Shell’s legal counsel Adrian Friedman even suggested that the urgency was “self-created” by the applicants by only filing their court papers this week, days before the seismic survey was due to start.
In his ruling, Govindjee said that he was satisfied that there was no “undue delay” in bringing the application – as the applicants were only made aware of it on 29 October.
The applicants had also challenged the public participation process, claiming that not all interested and affected parties were notified about the exploration right granted to Shell, nor of the two subsequent renewals that followed.
Shell, on the other hand, filed supplementary affidavits on Thursday indicating that “hundreds” of interested and affected parties were notified, including two applicants: Border Deep Angling Association and the Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club.
In his ruling, Govindjee said that Shell has provided details on compliance with its Environmental Management Programme and the mitigation measures that would be in place for the survey.
“Given the paucity of information as to the likelihood of environmental harm, the balance of convenience favours Shell,” he said.
The applicants “failed” to convince the judge that there is a “well-rounded apprehension of irreparable harm” if the interim relief or interdict is not granted.
“Upon consideration of the affidavits as a whole according to facts and probabilities, the outcomes are the same and I must exercise discretion to reject the application,” Govindjee said.
“The question is whether the seismic survey to be undertaken should be interdicted pending final determination of a separate review application. That question has been answered [in the] negative.”
The application was dismissed with costs. – fin24.com