Recently, many people were aghast to hear that government has given the green light for shale gas fracking in the Karoo.

Department of Mineral Resources in South Africa stated “Based on the balance of scientific evidence, government took a decision to proceed with the development of shale gas in the Karoo.”   30 March 2017  See Minister Zwane’s speech at the end of this article.

So everyone is asking questions like:

  • What is the procedure now?

We have no idea of the procedure now and will be asking these questions too.  We believe there are still requirements that have to be met, but in the eastern part of SA, the EIA’s are underway or complete, and the decision for Rhino’s Matatiele Application (the only one for Shale Gas outside of the Karoo, others are for Coal Bed Methane) is awaited from PASA.

Remember this all fits in to the need to get opportunities for connected people in terms of the energy sector treasure chest.  Fracking and nuclear plans are dodgy deals with short term gains for a few connected people.  There is no long-term benefit to South Africans.  We need to take this money (which we don’t have) and put it into finding a better way – a hydrocarbon-free future in which all can participate and have power over their energy.

solar panels in South Africa

  • Can fracking start immediately or is there still legislative requirements and EIA’s that have to be done?

The findings and recommendations of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the Karoo Shalegas done by the CSIR  were unequivocal.  The work required by the state PRIOR to any fracking taking place will be a huge undertaking – it will take at least a decade to put in place all the requirements to make this madness slightly safer.  It is not only the impacts on our scarce and precious water resources, but also the effect on the fabric of our rural and small town communities.  Have a look at the impacts just from coal mining to see what it does to people’s lives and livelihoods to see what is in store for those communities facing fracking.  Just try to imagine the effect of all those trucks alone on the Karoo dorps to understand the scale of devastation that awaits them, with no water to sustain life.  We asked the Environmental Practitioners for the Eastern SA applications, many questions based on the Karoo SEA.  

The jobs created by fracking in the Karoo will not match the livelihoods lost.  This is clearly shown in the SEA work and so where is the benefit?  The US communities in the fracking areas know very well the cost of “cheap fuel” on their lives, livelihoods and communities.  Why do we not learn from them?  We do not need to generate more greenhouse gas emissions during fracking to further drive Climate Change, when we are already reeling from the effects of extreme weather on a daily basis.

Karoo graveyard

 

  • Have specific locations been identified for fracking? Or just areas where fracking is possible?

The geological exploration has been done – the depth and extent of the shale gas and coal bed methane is known and understood.  It is now just up to the regulators to authorize this or not and for desperate landowners (who may believe the companies applying to explore and extract or accept the money being promised) to allow them access.  If authorised, it will definitely not reflect the wishes of the majority of South Africans (yet again!).

  • Government has said farming communities will benefit from fracking. How will that work?

Government will need to be specific as to how farming communities will benefit.  This is PolitikSpeak or a downright lie.  The Minister will need to explain to farmers how will it benefit you when your land is opened up to strangers to ravage your fields that feed your family and the nation, withdraw your precious water, pollute the remaining supplies and then leave you with nothing but sterile land.  Your livelihood will be lost, the social fabric of your community will have been ripped apart by strangers, your children will be lost to the hollow promises of a better life in the boom town and the legacy for those who come after you will only be one of drought, destitution and devastation.

What can we do now?  We will implement the next steps in our strategy with our partners, which will mobilize all sectors of society to oppose this madness.  We will do all it takes to stop the authorization of the extraction of unconventional gas.

ADDRESS BY MINERAL RESOURCES MINISTER, MOSEBENZI ZWANE (MP) AT A COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ON SHALE GAS DEVELOPMENT, RICHMOND, NORTHERN CAPE, 30TH MARCH 2017.

Die Premier van die Noord Kaap, Cde Sylvia Lucas, Al die leierskaap van die provinsie, Verteewoordige van die gemeenskap Besighede en bree (business and civil society) , Al die gemeenskaap van Ubuntu en Pixley, Ek bedank die leierskap en die hele gemeenskap van die Noord Kaap wat ons vandag ontmoet Ons is baie bly om hier te wees Ons waardeer dit. Siya Bulela. Die doel van ons besoek vandag is van skale gas gaan praat. Somige va ons is bewus van die skale gas, en andere nie. Ons is hier om die vrae beantwoord. Ons is bewus somige van die gemeenskap is bekomerd oor die besoedeling van water en die beskadiging van die ongewing. Die regeering doen alles in sy vermoer om dit te keer, waarvan ons vir julle vandag gaan vertel. Let me first indicate that our beloved country is one of the most sophisticated and promising emerging markets globally, mainly because of abundant natural resources and exploration prospects. Additionally, the recoverable resource of shale gas is estimated at up to 50 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in the Karoo Basin especially in the Eastern, Northern, and Western Cape provinces. This is why we are here today, to be able to share information on this resource which could potentially be found in the Northern Cape Province. This is the province which is also known to be the host of various minerals ranging from manganese, diamonds and iron ore, to name a few. Last year we hosted a successful and similar engagement with the communities of the Eastern Cape Province. I am confident that we will today have a fruitful engagement whereby we will together realise and have an understanding of what shale gas is, as well as hydraulic fracturing, that is the methpod used to extract the gas. 3 We believe it is equally important that while we share with you information on the importance and benefits of developing the gas resources, we also listen to your concerns as the communities where this resource could potentially be found. It is also in our interest to see all the people of South Africa benefiting both socially and economically from the mineral wealth of our country. South Africa has for many years been largely dependent on coal as a single source of energy. It is for this reason that, government has taken a decision to diversify the country’s energy basket with the aim of providing a cost-competitive energy security, and to significantly reduce the carbon footprint as well as to drive the industrialisation and beneficiation programme to realise an inclusive economic growth. The development of shale gas – if proved to be economically extractable – is also expected to create direct and indirect employment opportunities and contribute meaningfully to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Other potential economic benefits of shale gas include business development within local communities, including lower energy prices, creation of black industrialists, employment, specialised skills and youth development. This initiative is in line with the objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP), which defines a fabric of society we aspire to achieve by 2030. Since 2004, we have introduced major regulatory reforms, which marked a significant shift from private ownership of mineral and petroleum resources to custodianship by the State, on behalf of the people of South Africa. The State exercised its right to govern the development of these resources and to ensure that it optimises their development in an orderly manner that benefits the people of the country. We are also mindful of the risks and challenges associated with the development of such resource, especially on water and environment. However, we are committed as the government of the people to develop the resources in a manner that is considerate of the country’s water resources and environmental sustainability. We have also taken measures to ensure the farming community benefits from the development of shale gas, whilst the astronomy programme, such as the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) would not be affected through such development. 4 In addition, the South African Government has augmented the regulatory framework to ensure that the exploration of shale gas resources is orderly and safely developed through technology called hydraulic fracturing. The finalization of Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) amendments will also help to expedite the development of shale gas. Government has taken comprehensive measures to alleviate the risk associated with the development of shale gas. The publication of Regulations for Petroleum Exploration and Production as well as the Karoo Deep Drilling study being undertaken by the Council for Geoscience (CGS), constitute some of these measures. In order for us as the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to be well-informed of shale gas developments, we are part of the continuous research initiatives such as the Strategic Environmental Assessment led by the Department of Environmental Affairs. Furthermore, the DMR, through Council for Geosciences and the Petroleum Agency of South Africa (PASA) as its entities, have been mandated to undertake continuous research in line with other research initiatives to enhance our understanding of South Africa’s shale gas resources. When shale gas was discovered few years ago, concerns regarding possible implications of this resource were raised. Government ensured that before the processing of any applications a socio-economic and environmental assessment of shale gas development was conducted. This was necessary to enable a process of data and information collection for informed decision-making on shale gas development. Based on the balance of available scientific evidence, government took a decision to proceed with the development of shale gas in the Karoo formation of South Africa. Government will ensure that you are kept up to date about the exploration method and benefits that can be realised from the development of shale gas and informed about the mechanisms and instruments that seek to augment existing laws for the protection of water resources and for the protection of the environment. In closing I wish to encourage you to participate fully throughout the process of the development of the shale gas resource, for the benefit of us all and for the future generations of our beloved South Africa.

Fracking Approved? Really?

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