The Makhanda High Court ruled that in giving exploration right to Shell and Impact Africa, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) did not follow the procedure correctly and ignored the need for proper consultation. This pronouncement is a victory the people of AmaDiba, Port St. John’s and surrounds; Dwesa-Cwebe as well as supporting organisations, have been working on since 29 April 2014 when the DMRE said Shell could explore prospects for shale gas in the area.
The decision which was followed by renewals in 2017 and again in 2021, was opposed by local communities and people who depend on small-scale fishing for their livelihoods and organisations such as Sustaining the Wild Coast NPC; All-Rise Attorneys for Climate and Environment NPC via, the Legal Resources Centre and Richard Spoor Attorneys. They were later joined in a court application by Natural Justice and Greenpeace Africa.
The position of the affected coastal communities and the civil society organisations was supported by many scientists who informed the DMRE to put the exploration operation to a stop as the seismic methods employed are unsafe for marine ecosystems and the communities that dot the coastal line.
The community activists had more expansive reasons to oppose the operation. Locals see Shell’s bid to find fossil fuels in the area as threatening to their livelihood.
“Many of us living closer to the ocean depend on the ocean economy to survive,” he told reporters.
Communities and civil society organisations first embarked on protests against Shell’s survey but followed this with an urgent interdict to stop the blasting. Small-scale fishing people from the area and all the way to the Kei Mouth approached the court and filed an interdict to block the blasting before escalating their legal action to fully set aside the exploration right granted to Shell and Impact Africa. They achieved victory in the interdict matter in December 2021.
The applicants said that they had not been properly consulted.
The court found that the DMRE did not follow a fair procedure in granting Impact Africa exploration right, neither did it take into account the relevant considerations, and also did not comply with the applicable legal prescripts. The DMRE violated the Integrated Coastal Management Act.
The court also found that the proposals that Impact Africa outlined in their Environmental Management Programme were not substantiated. Impact Africa proposed the exploration would lead to job-creation and a positive impact on the economy, improving the lives of the locals.
The Wild Coast has been subject to proposals such as titanium mining by Transworld, an Australian company opposed by the AmaDiba Crisis Committee formed by activists in the area.
This article was submitted on 14 September 2022. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.