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Locals say ‘frack off’

Residents against firm’s search application that could lead to fracking

Natal Witness 15 January 2019

The application by Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration South Africa received a “resounding no” from residents, farmers and business owners for its application to deploy an aircraft to survey a stretch of land across the KwaZulu-Natal midlands and the Free State.  That is according to as coping report by SLR Consulting for the Rhino Oil and Gas application. Rhino Oil and Gas, according to the scoping report, is searching for oil, gas, condensate, coal bed methane, helium and biogenic gas.  The scenic beauty of the Drakensberg could be destroyed if the international minerals exploration company is given the green light to survey some one million hectares of land with a view to extracting resources. The proposal has received about 400 written submissions from concerned members of the public, who believe granting this application would give Rhino Oil and Gas “blanket authorisation” for future hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — which is harmful to the environment. The scoping report noted that Rhino Oil and Gas applied to fly the aircraft over 1006 698 hectares of land, which covers some 6000 properties.  The report describes the area as having “strategic water source areas” for catchment areas that supply water to Gauteng.  The report also said the Drakensberg area was “known for its scenic beauty” and the overall area was “highly diverse” and attracted tourism which drove the local economy.  SLR Consulting and Rhino Oil and Gas held community meetings across the Midlands last year to air concerns by interested parties.  The scoping report provided an over view of the complaints, which appeared to centre around the perception that granting this application would lead to “future risks”, like fracking.

The report said a “great majority” of interested parties were “strongly opposed” to oil and gas exploration procedures.

“It is evident that the public opinion on whether the project should be approved is a resounding ‘no’,” the report read.

The public flagged potential impacts such as soil erosion, contamination of water sources, a drop in air quality and impacts on vegetation.  They also raised concerns around potential damage to heritage resources.

The public also claimed Rhino Oil and Gas and SLR Consulting held “inadequate” consultations with the public.  SLR Consulting said in response to these concerns that the current application is just for an aerial survey and noon- the- ground activities were proposed.   SLR said it was continuing its public consultation, but noted it notified identified landowners and had distributed background information about the application in 11 newspapers, including Afrikaans and Zulu language ones.

The report said the strong public opinion should be considered when a decision on the application is finally made.

The report also stressed that the “sole purpose” of the proposal is to indicate the presence of any resources, and further applications would need to be made to excavate them.

The public has a window to comment on the report, ending on February 11.  The report will eventually be submitted to the Petrolum Association of South Africa (Pasa) and a decision will eventually be made by the Department of Mineral Resources.