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KZN gas plans halted

 5 May 2017
The Witness
CHELSEA PIETERSE 

Big fracking win for local farmers as court stops oil and gas exploration

NORTHERN KwaZulu­Natal farmers celebrated a “massive victory” on Wednesday after the Western Cape High Court ruled against exploration for oil and gas in Northern KZN.

KwaZulu­Natal Agriculture Union (Kwanalu) released a statement saying judgment was handed down against the South African Agency for Promotion of Petroleum and Exploitation (Pasa), the minister of Mineral Resources and Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration South Africa (Pty) Ltd.

Rhino Oil and Gas submitted their notice of application for exploration in the KZN Midlands and Northern KZN, in late 2015 and early 2016 respectively.

Both applications covered a total area of more than 1 600 000 hectares and in excess of 15 000 farms.

Last year saw mass demonstrations by environmental activists and farmers against the company with fears that exploration could lead to fracking.

Fracking (hydraulic fracturing of gas bearing rock) is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high ­pressure water mixture is directed at the rocks to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure, allowing the gas to flow out to the head of the well.

On Wednesday however, local farmers who took action against Rhino, Pasa and minister Mosebenzi Zwane were successful and hailed the ruling as a “massive victory”.

The complaint was lodged by KZN farmer Sean Hoatson.

According to court papers, Judge D.V. Dlodlo said he agreed that the farmers had been prejudiced and did not have the opportunity to object to the acceptance of the exploration rights by Pasa.

Dlodlo ruled that Pasa’s acceptance of the application be set aside and Rhino Oil and Gas be interdicted and restrained from submitting their environmental impact report (EIR) and the environmental management program to Pasa.

Kwanalu director Sandy la Marque said Wednesday’s court decision “is a huge relief for farmers not only in the northern parts of KZN but the entire province”.

“We commend those farmers involved for their hard work and determination in achieving this result,” she said.

La Marque said when Rhino Oil and Gas first submitted their notice of application for exploration in KZN, Kwanalu expressed its concerns about the business and environmental impact and the potential health implications connected to fracking.

While Rhino Oil and Gas has not applied for fracking rights, the company has said in previous articles published by The Witness that if the correct gas was found, it was possible they could apply to start fracking.

La Marque said gas and mineral exploration could come at a huge cost to the environment, with the potential to contaminate water resources, as well as threatening to destroy livelihoods and businesses and negatively affect communities’ health.

La Marque added that Kwanalu was in the advanced stages of instituting legal intervention regarding the Midlands exploration application brought by Rhino Oil and Gas.

Pasa referred The Witness to the national Department of Mineral Resources for comment, however they had not responded to media queries at the time of going to print.

Rhino Oil and Gas had also not responded to media queries at the time of going to print yesterday evening.