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A Massive Win Against Shell + Impact Oil and Gas

Outside Makhanda High Court – 1 September 2022

The Oceans Not Oil coalition celebrates after rallying hundreds of thousands since November last year (2021) to the cause of halting Shell’s seismic survey off the Wild Coast, after Shell emerged with a permit authorisation from 2014 and declared they were about to start. Today’s judgement (1 Sept 2022) is a benchmark one for the nation, marine justice and the Oceans Not Oil movement, for which we are indebted to the bravery of Sustaining the Wildcoast and fellow applicants. This judgment, made by three judges because of the novel nature of the issues raised, recognises:

-the key role of the ocean to livelihoods and the right to food security;

-the embedded spiritual and cultural connections of South Africans to the sea;

-that climate change impacts and considerations of further oil and gas development were not taken into account;

-that chiefs and kings do not have a legal right to speak for their communities;

-that the entire ocean community including the marine environment and animals needs consideration under the Integrated Coastal Management system.

– that the state regulator, the Minister of Energy and Resources, must independently understand and assess when deciding on environmental authorisation:

  • impact on environment, 
  • climate change (which was a first)
  • the ocean is an integrated system, 
  • the impact on the rights of affected communities. 

Shell’s permit and all subsequent renewals were set aside with costs.

Simplistically, this judgment stems from Shell (and others) who applied to undertake seismic surveys (reconnaissance) off the Wild Coast with the purpose of further exploring areas for the viability of drilling wells for offshore oil and gas extraction. In 2014, the Department of Mineral Resources modified the law through a policy called The One Environmental System, which circumvented the Department of Environmental Affairs, having any say (or oversight) over the environmental impacts of the various steps (i.e. reconnaissance) before the actual drilling and production for offshore oil and gas began.

Today’s judgment is a victory for every South African who has ever used the sea for enjoyment, food, income, resources or for spiritual healing. Congratulations to the legal team and the myriad of experts, consultants, supporters and the people of Mzantsi!

See the Full Judgement below.  

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