During November, we celebrated withdrawals of some Exploration Applications.
However, this is no time to rest on our laurels as the rights can be sold to a new applicant. There are many more applications in progress (see table below) and everyone needs to record an objection on every single one – even if it is not in your own backyard. Fracking (and oil, gas, coal extraction) anywhere in South Africa will affect us all.
Sungu Sungu withdrew its exploration application ER313 in the face of pending legal action.
“The extent of the exploration areas and number of properties affected was enormous. The prospect of effectively opposing the applications was initially overwhelming and seemingly impossible. All the Farmers’ Associations worked together, put up the money to fund the appeal and court application. This was a team effort.” said fracktavista and Elandslaagte resident Adele Slater.
Apparently, a major flaw in the process followed by Sungu Sungu was their failure to adequately inform landowners that an application for an exploration right had been submitted. The court papers recorded that once a prospecting right is granted by the minister of Mineral Resources, the prospecting company has ‘the right to enter a person’s land, together with any plant, machinery or equipment and build, construct or lay down any surface, underground (or undersea) infrastructure required’, and use any water sources on the land.’
“It is therefore apparent that once an exploration right has been granted it will have seriously prejudicial effects on the rights of a land-owner or -user to their own land …” the court papers stated.
The following week, we were notified that Motuoane Energy (application Normandien, Besters, Ladysmith and part of the Free State) also withdrew their application (ER316).
Fracktavista Cecile Wykes from Verkykerskop reports: “When our attorneys appeared at the Pretoria High Court this morning, the judge ordered that PASA’s initial acceptance of the exploration application was defective. This means they have to start right at the beginning.”
When we asked EIMS Consultants why the application was withdrawn and why if it were related to the flawed process, Motuoane was continuing with the Henneman application, they gave us this reason:
It is our understanding that the withdrawal of Motuoane exploration applications 313 and 316 was unrelated to the EIA process. It is our understanding that the withdrawal of the Sungu Sungu (313) application was unrelated to the EIA process- the exact detail of the reasons for the withdrawal have not been provided to EIMS. EIMS has further not received any instruction or correspondence from either the Applicant or the Authority to withdraw the Motuoane Hennenman application.
While the AFRO ENERGY (ER 321) application to explore for petroleum in Mpumalanga (around Wakkerstroom) and some of KZN did not mention the possibility of fracking, any exploration for fossil fuel would have a detrimental effect on the natural environment and water resources. They too have withdrawn their application. We asked SLR Consulting why and they gave us this reason:
Afro Energy advised that following the initial consultation of interested and affected parties and Scoping of the environmental attributes the company had established that a large portion of the 321 ER application area comprised sensitive environmental features and protected areas (including some proposed for protection).
Additionally, the rugged terrain in some areas would have posed formidable difficulties and challenges to gas drilling activities. The decision to withdraw the ER321 application is in line with Afro Energy’s policy to preserve natural resources and protect sensitive ecological areas.
Wakkerstroom resident Wendy Watson “We are still fighting the Indian Consortium’s (Atha Africa Ventures) application. Sadly, it looks like the primary explorations for the coal mine near Dirkiesdorp may be approved.” This is in the Mabola Protected Environment, a critical water catchment area in Mpumalanga, just one year after the area was proclaimed a protected area.
Centre for Environmental Rights comments “According to Atha’s environmental impact assessment report (EIAR), it plans to de-water the wetlands, draw water from the subsurface water resources and to pollute the streams that feed the rivers originating in this area. The EIAR also states that decant of acid mine drainage from the mine in the mining and post-mining phase is highly likely. Atha proposes to mitigate the impact of the mine on the water resources in the area, but most of the damage to this extremely sensitive aquatic environment cannot be mitigated and will therefore be irreversible.”
Volunteers at Frack Free South Africa are pleased with these withdrawals, however, these victories simply set the juggernaut back a little. When the Exploration Right expires, unused, another company will buy it and start the process again. A collective voice and consolidated action is required for our actions to be sustainable. . We need to legally challenge fracking as a principle and not only on a case-by-case basis on technical issues. We need to stop exploration for new mining at the outset. We need to make sure we have met all the public participation requirements (comment in writing, keep copies of all correspondence, meet time frames and appeal to DEA within 20 days if approved, etc), so that we can prevent a precedent being created. We do not want to have to stop exploration once authorised.
Frack Free SA is grateful to Global GreenGrants Fund for support of the awareness raising campaign, however we will need to launch a major fundraising campaign to pay for any legal work that may be required.
Will you contribute? Every cent counts. Let firstname.lastname@example.org know how you can help. Why not be part of the solution by making a donation to protect your family’s water resources in lieu of glittery gifts that add to to the problem?