Residents reject KZN fracking exploration
Concern about environmental damage
BUSINESS owners, environmental activists, farmers and rural dwellers have resoundingly rejected a proposal to explore for oil and gas in the Drakensberg, fearing it could lead to environmentally hazardous fracking activity across swathes of prime land in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.
This is according to Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration South Africa’s findings during public hearings as recorded in a Scoping Report for its application to explore for oil and gas that was released for public comment on Friday. The public has until February11 to submit comments regarding the application.
Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration South Africa, a subsidiary of US-based Rhino Resources Ltd, lodged an application with the Petroleum Agency of South Africa for an exploration right to search for potential sub-surface oil and gas deposits including, oil, gas, condensate, coal bed methane, helium and biogenic gas, over approximately 6000 properties, last month.
The exploration area includes just more than one million hectares of land extending from the Mooi River, Estcourt and Bergville areas up Van Reenen’s Pass to south of Memel in the Free State. It also extends west along the Lesotho border, past Phuthaditjhaba and Clarens and north-west beyond Bethlehem and Lindley.
According to the report “the proposed exploration work programme is restricted to desktop data review and the undertaking of an aerial survey. No stimulation, pressure testing, hydraulic fracturing or water abstraction is included in the proposed exploration work”.
Protected areas and residential properties had been excluded from the exploration right application area in terms of Section 48 of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act, the report noted. However, the list of affected properties includes farms and several hotels and resorts close to the protected Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park.
The report says the firm received approximately 400 written comment submissions during the public participation process.
“The great majority of interested and affected parties are strongly opposed to all forms of oil and gas exploration, and to this application in particular. Overall, the public opposition makes for a very strong argument against the application and the process. It is evident that the primary driver of the opposition is concerns about future risks,” the report said.
The scoping report highlighted the main concerns being about the future risks to water, land, natural ecosystems and rural tourism economies that might arise from production if a resource is found. It also noted that the public had raised concerns about exploring for new hydrocarbon-based energy sources rather than developing renewable energy.
The report said the public had also expressed “concern that given the money involved, if any hydrocarbon resource is found, it will not be possible to stop production regardless of what the future Environmental Impact Assessment processes may indicate in terms of risk. Thus the only way to avoid such risks is to not open the door to such projects”.
However, the company responded to these concerns in the report saying that if any resources were found during exploration, a further application for extraction and production would have to be made, and this could be declined due to potential environmental risks.
Environmental justice organisation GroundWork campaign researcher Nevin Reddy said the NGO was opposed to the application .
“We cannot allow this to go ahead because exploration at this phase is with the intention to begin fracking. Every community we are working with in KwaZulu-Natal and in other parts of South Africa are totally against this,” Reddy said.
Janse Rabie, the head of natural resources at Agri SA, a federation of agricultural organisations representing 29000 farmers, said the organisation was investigating the matter.
“We are not sure about shale gas development and where the water is coming from and what is going to be done about dirty/contaminated water. The problem is that once an exploration right is granted, there is an automatic entitlement to (apply for and) be granted a production right,” he said.
A copy of the report can be downloaded at https://slrconsulting.com/za/slr-documents
We cannot allow this as exploration at this stage is with the intention to begin fracking.