Shale gas mining un­der close scru­tiny

Vuk'uzenzele - - General - Stephen Timm

reg­u­la­tions have been put in place, en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ments, a deep-drilling project and other pre­cau­tion­ary ini­tia­tives are un­der­way to en­sure frack­ing in the Ka­roo does not do dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment.

hav­ing given the green light for shale gas drilling to go ahead, gov­ern­ment is tak­ing a range of pre­cau­tions to mit­i­gate against any en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age in the Ka­roo, says PETROSA man­ager of li­cens­ing and le­gal com­pli­ance Te­bogo Mot­loung.

Min­eral Re­sources Min­is­ter Mosebenzi Zwane an­nounced in March that gov­ern­ment in­tends to pro­ceed with shale­gas mining.

There has been con­cern that the re­moval of shale gas by hy­draulic frac­tur­ing (or frack­ing) could cause en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age.

Mot­loung said a num­ber of reg­u­la­tions have been put in place to counter these risks, while a range of stud­ies have also been com­mis­sioned to as­sess the var­i­ous risks.

A mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee has also been set up made up of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the de­part­ments of min­eral re­sources, science and tech­nol­ogy, en­ergy, en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs and wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion, as well as PETROSA and the Coun­cil for Geo­science

Un­der the Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Act ap­pli­cants must carry out manda­tory en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ments. Fur­ther reg­u­la­tions for petroleum ex­plo­ration and pro­duc­tion were gazetted in June 2015, ex­pand­ing the ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tory frame­work.

The de­part­ments of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs and min­eral re­sources as well as other de­part­ments are also car­ry­ing out an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment to de­velop pol­icy and leg­is­la­tion.

Sci­en­tific stud­ies

Mot­loung said a num­ber of sci­en­tific stud­ies were pub­lished last year. These in­clude as­sess­ment of im­pacts of shale gas de­vel­op­ment on air qual­ity, earth­quakes, wa­ter re­sources, bio­di­ver­sity and ecol­ogy, her­itage and spa­tial and in­fra­struc­ture plan­ning.

The Coun­cil for Geo­science in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Petrosa has also em­barked on a Ka­roo Deep Drilling Project aimed at un­der­stand­ing the im­pact that any geo-re­source ex­plo­ration ac­tiv­i­ties would have on the Ka­roo.

Added to this, the de­part­ments of science and tech­nol­ogy and min­eral re­sources to­gether with PETROSA are con­tin­u­ing to en­gage with one an­other to de­velop mech­a­nisms to en­sure that shale gas ac­tiv­i­ties will not com­pro­mise the Square Kilo­me­tre Ar­ray (SKA) ra­dio as­tron­omy project near Carnar­von.

The As­tron­omy Geo­graphic Ad­van­tage Act pro­vides for the pro­tec­tion of the ar­eas rel­e­vant to the SKA. Mot­loung pointed out that site-spe­cific as­sess­ments can only be un­der­taken once it be­comes clearer what equip­ment will be used on each site.

The Depart­ment of Min­eral Re­sources held two pub­lic aware­ness meet­ings, one in Cradock in the Eastern Cape and an­other in Rich­mond in the North­ern Cape.

The three ap­pli­cants that have lodged ap­pli­ca­tions to ex­plore for shale gas have also held sev­eral con­sul­ta­tion meet­ings in the Eastern Cape, North­ern Cape and Western Cape.

“Ap­pli­cants must carry out manda­tory en­vi­ron­men­tal

im­pact as­sess­ments”.

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