Shell’s plan for seismic testing on South Africa’s Wild Coast, which critics claim threatens dolphins, seals, whales, penguins and other rare sea life, has been approved by the country’s energy minister, according to a letter to parliament.
The Minister of Energy Gwede Mantashe said there had been no shortcuts taken in the process in a written reply released by parliament late on Wednesday.
“As part of the exploration right application, an environmental impact assessment was carried out in 2013 (and) no objections were received,” the letter said.
“All applicable legislative requirements were followed in granting the exploration right.”
In a decision issued Dec. 28, the South African high court ordered Royal Dutch Shell not to conduct seismic testing off of the Wild Coast, in response to a challenge from environmental activists and local residents.
Shell has been protested against by environmentalists and others, who claim its underwater acoustics are harmful to marine animals, especially migrating whales.
South Africa’s Wild Coast boasts some of the country’s most undisturbed natural coastlines and marine wildlife refuges. As a result, it is a major tourism attraction.
Shell claims its planned exploration has all the necessary regulatory approvals, and if resources are found, it will lead to greater energy security in South Africa.
The government is eager to secure feedstock for the state-run Mossel Bay gas-to-liquid refinery.
Oil companies are under pressure from environmentalists to stop prospecting for oil. According to experts, it is unlikely the world will reach zero carbon emissions by 2050 – the minimum required to halt catastrophic climate change – even if existing oil reserves are burned, let alone new ones.
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