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


For those of you who missed our email notices and local newspaper reports, it has recently been announced that there is a second application by the exploration company, Rhino Oil and Gas 108TCP, that includes nearly 5 000 farms over an area of just less than 2 000 000 ha in the Newcastle, Vryheid, Pongola, Melmoth and Nongoma areas. This is on top of their original application for exploration 291ER on a 1 500 000ha belt of land that includes 10 000 farms in the central part of KZN. The two combined exploration zones cover nearly 40% of KZN’s total land surface area and nearly 15 500 farms.

Apart from the two Rhino Oil and Gas applications, another company, Sungu Sungu Gas, have also applied for an application for exploration rights on various farms within the Dannhauser Municipality, near Dundee and Newcastle. The “Sungu Sungu Exploration Project” covers an area of roughly 7 763 ha.

These applications have been met with inflammatory public participation protests at meetings held in October 2015 and March this year. Rhino Oil and Gas in particular have experienced significant opposition, and for very good reason because should exploration be approved, the most likely method of gas extraction may be hydraulic fracturing.

The word ‘fracking’ means high volume hydraulic fracturing and related activities. It stands for a relatively new technology that involves injecting a high-pressure cocktail of chemicals and water deep underground to shatter gas-rich rock formations, with the intention of extracting these gases, raising major concerns about the pollution of surface and underground water supplies.

Leaks of gas can occur across the entire process of extraction, treatment, storage and transportation. There are also emissions from diesel engines, compressors and heavy transport vehicles, as well as the potential release of silica into the air. Oxides of nitrogen, hydrogen sulphide, formaldehyde, benzene, ethylene, toluene, particulate matter and ground-level ozone are among the more significant airborne health hazards. Surface and ground water can also be polluted by methane gas and other toxic chemicals, including known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, which are used to release the gas. What’s more, fracking waste-water has proved almost impossible to fully treat.

Contaminated water and harmful air pollution are just a few of the all-too-real side effects associated with unconventional oil and natural gas development. Pregnant women, mothers, and their babies are at particular risk from toxic chemical exposure that can lead to infertility, miscarriage, impaired learning and intellectual development, birth defects, respiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer. Countless reports show that fracking is dangerous, destructive and harmful to human health.

If that is not enough to scare you, of particular concern to us, especially considering the dire effects of the El Nino weather patterns and the subsequent drought, are the vast amounts of water needed for the fracking process. According to research, about 20 million litres of water is required per frack well. Past experience from the U.S indicates that up to 80 000 wells could be sunk in a 30 000ha zone.

Bronwyn Howard, an environmental activist and journalist based in Utrecht, told The Witness that the biggest threat that any mining operation can bring to communities is a threat to their water rights.

Kwanalu’s CEO, Sandy La Marque, agrees. “How can we see exploration as an option when we don’t even have security of food or water supply, especially considering the risks to the agricultural sector? “Asked La Marque.

Despite these concerns and the mounting evidence against it, a recent statement from parliament confirmed that the first licences for hydraulic fracturing should be issued this year, as reported by The Witness on 25 February 2016.

In light of these statements, Kwanalu would like to reaffirm our policy position; that we are strongly opposed to any form of exploration for gas recourses because of the threats to our agricultural recourses and our communities.

We are currently engaging in a multifaceted approach which includes seeking legal opinion, submitting applications for relevant documentation, assisting with lobbying to expand the moratorium currently being demanded of the Karoo on any further exploration, lobbying to expand research and working with key stakeholders, including the WWF, Frack Free SA and African Conservation Trust.

At present we have a small group of people who have expressed interest in assisting in the actions required to fight this process. If you would like to get involved or believe that you are able to provide additional expertise to our small steering committee, please let us know. You can email info@kwanalu.co.za.