Skip to Content

Centre for Environmental Rights – Advancing Environmental Rights in South Africa

Support Us Subscribe Search

Virtual Library

Christian John Adams & Others v Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy & Others (West Coast Seismic Survey) Part A – Interdict – March 2022

2 March 2022

The judgment is available here.

Case Number: 1306/22

Date delivered: 1 March 2022

Date heard: 25 February 2022

Judge: Thulare J

High Court: Western Cape Division, Cape Town

Outcome:

The 3rd, 4th and 6th Respondents (Searcher Geodata UK Limited, Searcher Seismic (Australia) and the vessel BGP Pioneer) are interdicted from continuing their seismic survey of the West and South-West Coast of South Africa.

The 3rd and 4th Respondents were ordered to pay the costs of Part A of the application including the costs of three counsel, and the costs of a previous hearing for an interim interdict on 14 February 2022, including three counsel.

Summary – Part A:

In Part A of the application, the Applicants, who were individual and collective formations of small scale fishers, indigenous communities and environmental organisations, sought an urgent interdict against the Respondents to prevent them from conducting seismic surveying along South Africa’s west coast in terms of a reconnaissance permit issued under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA).

Part B of the application involved the question of whether the parties conducting the seismic blasting required environmental authorisation issued under the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) which they did not have.

The court criticised the environmental consultant which the Respondents had contracted to conduct the public participation process for failing to consult with small scale fishers such as the Applicants, who were interested and affected parties. In particular, the judge criticised the participation process because it prejudiced those affected parties who were illiterate and poor, who were not English or Afrikaans speakers, and who did not have access to technological devices. The process also favoured the commercial fishing sector over subsistence and small scale fishers.

In considering the interdict requirement of an apprehension of irreparable harm, Thulare J indicated that the cumulative impacts of seismic surveys has not been studied in South Africa and noted that physical, physiological and behavioral damage to marine biodiversity has been directly linked to seismic surveys such as that proposed by the Respondents. The court noted that the failure to consult fishers prejudiced the Applicants’ rights to equality, food, livelihood and culture.

The court found that the requirements for an interdict had been established and ordered that the 3rd, 4th and 6th Respondents were interdicted from conducting the seismic survey, pending the outcome of an internal appeal under the MPRDA and the outcome of Part B of the application

The 3rd and 4th Respondents were ordered to pay the costs of Part A of the application including the costs of three counsel, and the costs of a previous hearing for an interim interdict on 14 February 2022, including three counsel.