Amazon Warrior is in Port Alfred accompanied by a support vessel, the Ocean Fortune, and a guard vessel, the Astra G. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Amazon Warrior is in Port Alfred accompanied by a support vessel, the Ocean Fortune, and a guard vessel, the Astra G. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

LIVE FEED: Shell allegedly starts gas exploration on Wild Coast as court case gets under way

By Vivian Warby Time of article published Dec 1, 2021

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Reports that Shell has started its gas exploration on the Wild Coast hours ahead of the urgent interdict to stop them, were made on Twitter today.

However, activists in the area were unable to verify this. The lawyers, nine minutes away from the hearing, were also unable to verify.

However, some environmentalists in the area said Amazon Warrior, the survey vessel to conduct seismic surveys along the Wild Coast for Shell, was already in formation to start the exploration.

The Lewis Pugh Foundation posted on Twitter at 12.20 today that Shell had started the seismic surveying already. However, this could not be confirmed.

Amazon Warrior is in Port Alfred accompanied by a support vessel, the Ocean Fortune, and a guard vessel, the Astra G.

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The urgent interdict to try to stop the seismic surveys along the Eastern Cape's Wild Coast, an area renowned for its high marine biodiversity, is presently under way amid growing protest against Shell and the carnage this will cause to the environment.

Cullinan & Associates delivered a certificate of urgency to the Registrar on Monday to get an urgent interdict to stop Shell and Acting Judge Govindjee’s Directive was received at around 14h20, which saw the matter as urgent. It will be heard at 2 today.

The matter is being heard in Grahamstown and argued virtually.

The applicants are Border Deep Sea Angling Association, Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club, Natural Justice and Greenpeace Africa.

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On Monday Mr Justice Govindjee directed Shell, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, and the Minister of the Environment to file their answering affidavits by 4 pm on Tuesday 30 November.

The Ministers did not file any papers and Shell filed a 56-page answering affidavit after 10 pm last night.

In its answering affidavit, according to the legal team bringing the action, Shell argues that:

· the speed at which the applicants brought the application to court is “is nothing short of abusive” [Para 10] and that application must be either dismissed or struck from the roll with costs [para 81]

· that there “is no evidence that sound from properly mitigated seismic surveys has had any significant impact on marine populations” [Para 33] and that it is not true that the sounds waves used during the seismic surveys will cause extremely loud underwater sounds [paras 54 and 55],

·“the exclusion zone of 500 m around the sound source guarantees that no animals will come into the vicinity of the sound source” [para 68] and

· that interested and affected parties were properly informed of the 2020 audit of the EMPr and so should have realised that an exploration right had been granted in 2013.

“Shell does not counter the applicants’ argument that it requires an environmental authorisation under the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) to proceed, and instead complains that for the past several years it has ‘been labouring under the impression that it has a valid authorisation and could proceed to arrange the seismic survey’ and it has spent millions of dollars and entered into contracts as a consequence [para 77],” said lawyers for the applicants.

At the hearing, this afternoon counsel for the applicants will reiterate the importance of preventing the seismic survey from commencing until all the facts are before the court and a well-informed decision can be made.

The applicants intend to put expert evidence before the court to expose how “irrational and socially unjust” it is for Shell to continue looking for more oil and gas reserves when the reserves already discovered cannot be used without causing catastrophic climate change, especially in light of the Dutch court ruling ordering Shell to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 47% within this decade.

The applicants said their view is that the commencement of the seismic exploration activities are prima facie unlawful until Shell has applied for, and obtained, the necessary Environmental Authorisation in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).

“We also believe that the decision-making process amounts to unjust administrative action since interested and affected parties were not informed of the granting of the exploration right or given an opportunity to appeal it. The public was also not notified of the two applications to renew the exploration right.”

*This is a breaking story and more will be filed as the court proceedings are under way.

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