Government ‘courting’ a battle

National 22.8.2013 02.08 pm

Karoo anti-fracking groups “will go to court”

Theresa Taylor & Sapa
The Karoo near Willowmore, Eastern Cape. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons (Winfried Bruenken)
Government wants to authorise shale gas exploration before next year’s elections, but faces finding themselves in another court battle with civil rights groups.

“We want to move before the end of this administration,” said Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said on Thursday at a briefing following Cabinet’s fortnightly meeting. “We need to advance the work on taking a decision on shale gas exploration.”

Treasure Karoo Action Group CEO Jonathan Deal responded saying they were ready to go to court “tomorrow”, and would do so if such an action was pushed ahead.

“An election will come and go every four years but the decision one way or the other [on fracking] will be a legacy that will live with South Africa for a long time. It is not going to kill anyone to wait a year a year or two to investigate this properly,” he said.

Deal said that the promised public consultation had never happened and this would be one of the key pillars of their court action against any fracking exploration. Treasure Karoo Action Group is in partnership with Afriforum, whom Deal said would fund litigation. When asked about the Karoo’s vociferous anti-fracking lobby, Davies replied that government would proceed with exploration in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

“Of course we are not going to do this in any kind of irresponsible way,” he said.

Vital component

Davies said Cabinet believed shale gas could be a vital component in South Africa’s quest for energy security, but at this stage the potential extent of local reserves remained unknown.

“Mossgas has a resource of about one trillion cubic metres of gas. The gas fields of Mozambique which have just opened have about a hundred trillion cubic metres of gas, and the shale gas deposit — some of the estimates would suggest that it is multiples of the Mozambican,” he said.

“If this was the case, this could be a very, very significant game changer in terms of the energy situation in South Africa.”

On Wednesday, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe told Parliament scientists had advised government that it should seriously consider allowing fracking for shale gas because it could change the course of the economy.

New geophysical research published last week by Columbia University in the US concluded that over 100 small earthquakes were triggered in a single year of fracking-related activities in one region of Ohio.

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