The voice of agriculture . Die stem van landbou . Izwe lezokulima

Fracking in the Karoo is not a done deal

2017-04-05 08:39

The Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane, during a community meeting in Richmond in the Northern Cape revealed that the South African government has decided to proceed with the development of shale gas in the Karoo.

He stated that ‘based on available scientific evidence, the government has decided to proceed with the development of shale gas in the Karoo’ and that the regulatory framework will ensure that shale gas was ‘orderly and safely developed’.

He further stated that shale gas development would “significantly reduce” South Africa’s carbon footprint and provide “cost –competitive energy security”. The minister assured local communities that they will benefit from economic opportunities.

Firstly, for the minister to make commitments to develop shale gas in South Africa without exploration having taken place to determine the extent of potential gas resources (if any) is misguided and premature.

The minister’s assurance to communities that they would benefit from shale gas development is irresponsible, as the assessments that have been concluded in South Africa indicated marginal economic benefits to local communities, while environmental and health risks have been highlighted along with the need for baseline studies and further health studies to be conducted.

While the Econometrix report commissioned by Shell indicated the creation of between 300 000 and 700 000 jobs from shale gas development – a figure routinely quoted by the South African government – the government’s own studies pointed to a possible 3000 jobs. This is a big discrepancy and an indication of the false projections routinely used to justify shale gas development in South Africa.

One further has to question the logic of committing to shale gas development within the context of the drought in South Africa, in particular the Western Cape, and the potential implications on water consumption and pollution in the arid interior of the country.

For the minister to give the South African public assurances about the safety of shale gas development and the regulatory framework that would ensure the safe development of the resource is misguided, as the very regulations were indisputably developed in a void of a national assessment of potential implications of shale gas development in South Africa and are currently subjected to a legal challenge in the North Gauteng High Court.”

South Africans shouldn’t give up hope and accept that fracking is a done deal in South Africa. No exploration rights have been issued. Moreover the present regulations and the utterances of the department of minerals ignore the unequivocal cautions sounded by two South African reports; one from the Academy of Science of South Africa (“ASSAF Report”) which deals with the technical readiness of South Africa to support the shale gas industry; and the Strategic Environmental Assessment (“SEA”) commissioned from the Council for Scientific Research by the minister of environmental affairs.

Both reports validated the concerns that TKAG and AfriForum have raised since 2011 and call for rigorous and extensive baseline testing of various environmental conditions before the Regulations on Shale Gas can even be completed, let alone any form of physical exploration take place.

TKAG and its alliance partner, AfriForum, remain committed to ensuring transparent and science-based, informed decision-making on this issue and will continue with our legal opposition to shale gas in South Africa.

– Jonathan Deal is chairman of the Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG).

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