The South African justice confirmed on Thursday the ban on the hydrocarbon giant Shell from carrying out seismic exploration off the tourist "Wild Coast" (east), reaffirming an unprecedented victory for locals and environmentalists who feared serious disruptions for the marine fauna.
The project had already been suspended by the courts in December, "with immediate effect", and Shell had sent its research vessel out of South African waters in January.
The decision granting "an exploration right (...) for the search for oil and gas in the exploration areas of Transkei and Algoa is reviewed and canceled", the court in Makhanda (also called Grahamstown) in the province of the Eastern Cape, in a decision of which AFP had a copy.
"A monumental victory for the planet," welcomed environmental activists in a joint statement, some of whom celebrated the announcement in court.
The role of the ocean in the livelihoods and culture of coastal communities weighed in on the decision.
"The claimant communities argue that they have duties and obligations regarding the sea and other common resources such as land and forests," the court said.
In its first decision, the justice criticized Shell for not having fulfilled its obligation to consult the local population holding fishing rights and cultivating a "particular spiritual and cultural link with the ocean".
- "Reverse" -
The "Wild Coast", with spectacular wild landscapes, extends over some 300 km along the Indian Ocean and has several nature reserves as well as marine protected areas.
The exploration project involved the sending of a powerful shock wave every ten seconds, in an area of 6,000 km2, by boats equipped with air cannons.
“We respect the court's decision and we are reviewing the judgment,” a spokesperson for the company, which reserves the right to appeal.
The South African government supported the project in particular for the investments it represents. But the court also observed that Shell had not demonstrated, as it had claimed, that this activity would benefit the local community, in particular by creating employment.