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Shell silent on benefits of Wild Coast project for Eastern Cape

All marine life will be threatened by sonic booms fired by air guns from December as Shell barges on with its oil and gas exploration.
All marine life will be threatened by sonic booms fired by air guns from December as Shell barges on with its oil and gas exploration.
Image: Lesley Rochat

Mining is fast gaining a reputation for violence, exploitation, autocratic secretive politics and social chaos.

Contextually, humanity is facing up to the spectre of anthropogenic — human caused — changes to the gyroscopic biosphere, our life support system. Terrifying “tipping points” will lock in by 2030. Fossil-fuel gases are blamed for 65% of the pollution, and, facing the planet's sixth mass extinction, people have turned on the oil miners.

Global corporations know their market construct has moved; it is time to dump oil and find smarter, less harmful energy.

Shell knows this, and professes to be saving trees, yet here they are in the Eastern Cape, about to rake the Wild Coast waters from Morgan Bay to Port St Johns with arrays of up to 48 air guns firing 220 decibel blasts of compressed air. The guns send a sound and pressure wave shrieking through the ocean ecosystem and 40km into the crust. They want to fire every 10 seconds, 24-7 for five months, hunting for gas and oil off the Eastern Cape coast. 

There will be marine calamity, argue scientists and activists. In recent years, SA  has awoken to the reality of seismic surveys by an extraordinary coincidence of declining fisheries, and whale standings. 

Everyone loves the Wild Coast precisely because of its oceanic splendour, the “greatest shoal on Earth”, the sardine run, which attracts the marine “orchestra”  — thousands of animals and tourists. The beautiful finale led by our gracious Cetacean giants, the whales.

How they will cope with “doof, doof, doof, doof” is unknown because  minister Gwede Mantashe's mineral resources and energy department have, in a thoroughly self-serving act, arrogated to themselves the power to conduct and issue environmental authorisations for mining. 

Yet, when we look north and south, offshore and coastal mining has gone horribly wrong. People have died, coastlines have collapsed, there has been war.

People have died, coastlines have collapsed, there has been war

In our backyard, the people of Xolobeni, led by the Amadiba Crisis Committee, have forced the pugilistic Australian miners, Mantashe and his business cronies out using a combination of community unity and action, a national and international network of support, and a lawyer from UDF days, Richard Spoor.

Shell  said on Thursday that “full public consultation” took place, that they were legally compliant and listed numerous meetings with interested and affected parties. But a leading objector party said the consultations were in 2014 and 2015,  then “it went silent”.   Six years later, on June 25, a new consultant wrote about an “audit” of an “environment management plan".

“Next I heard was from  friends calling to say a notice of commencement had been advertised.”

Shell says it is a committed partner in SA's “just energy transition”, yet it says nothing about economic benefits for the province — which activists suggest will be close to zero.

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