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Shell faces fresh SA court test over seismic programme

The case, filed last week, comes after a South African High Court on Friday dismissed a request for an interdict from a group including Greenpeace.
Image: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Royal Dutch Shell Plc faces a fresh legal challenge to its planed seismic survey off South Africa’s eastern coastline with local communities seeking to halt the programme.

The case, filed last week, comes after a South African High Court on Friday dismissed a request for an interdict from a group including Greenpeace. The petition had sought to stop the programme on grounds including that it may cause irreparable harm to marine life and hurt the livelihoods of those who live off the sea.

The survey involves the firing of a loud air gun every few seconds that environmentalists say is likely to disturb sea life ranging from plankton to whales.

“Our ancestors blood was was spilt protecting our land and sea,” Reinford Zikulu said in an affidavit filed on behalf of Sustaining The Wild Coast NPC. “We now feel a sense of duty to protect our land and sea for future generations as well as for the benefit of the planet.”

Asbestos, gold

Sustaining The Wild Coast is represented by Richard Spoor Inc. Attorneys, a group named after its founder who successfully sued South African mining companies for compensation for asbestos and gold miners who suffer from respiratory disease.

In addition to potentially damaging the environment and disrupting local communities’ ability to making a living, Sustaining The Wild Coast argues that Shell doesn’t have the appropriate permits. The group also said Shell’s exploration for oil and gas contradicts the country’s drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

The case, filed in the Eastern Cape Division of South Africa’s High Court, will be heard on December 14, according to GroundUp, a South African news agency that reports on human rights and environmental matters.

Shell, in a statement on its South African website, maintains that it takes the concerns of local communities into account and is adopting international standards to mitigate the environmental impact of its activities. These include conducting the survey outside of the migratory season for whales, it said. Calls to its South African office outside of normal office hours were not answered.

In addition to the legal action, Shell has faced countrywide protests over its plans in South Africa and a call for a boycott of its gas stations.

© 2021 Bloomberg

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