In 2014, Shell were granted the right for the exploration of oil and gas in the Transkei and Algoa exploration areas. The proposed seismic survey involved extremely loud (220 decibels) underwater explosions which would have had harmful impacts on the Wild Coast’s sensitive marine ecosystems as well as coastal communities.
In 2021, Cullinan & Associates represented Natural Justice and Greenpeace Africa, who were among the environmental and human rights organisations opposed to Shell’s proposed seismic survey, and filed an urgent interdict to block it. The application was made on the basis that the commencement of the seismic exploration activities were unlawful since Shell had not applied for and obtained the necessary environmental authorisation in terms of the National Environmental Management Act. Furthermore, the decision-making process in granting the exploration rights was flawed due to the fact that interested and affected parties were not adequately informed nor given an opportunity to appeal.
On 1 September 2022, the High Court in Makhanda ruled that Shell’s exploration right was granted unlawfully and therefore set it aside. The judgement was internationally recognised as a resounding victory for social and environmental justice.