Eastern Province Herald on Fracking

  • Article rank
  • 4 Sep 2013
  • The Herald (South Africa)

New move to limit fracking

Shale gas explorers will need water licence

‘ I would like to be as objective as possible to find the best mechanism’

A NOTICE  of intention to declare fracking a controlled activity has been gazetted, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said in Pretoria yesterday. Companies seeking shale gas exploration permits will then need to apply for a water usage licence. South Africa last year lifted a moratorium on shale gas exploration in its Karoo region, where the extraction technique known as fracking might tap what is believed to be some of the world’s biggest reserves of the energy source.

The decision led to criticism from environmentalists.

“I have taken the decision . . . in terms of the National Water Act. What this means is, fracking becomes a water use, thus requiring a water use licence,” Molewa said.

The regulatory process around fracking in South Africa has been slow and no exploration permits have been issued yet.

Molewa said objectivity was needed. “I would like to be as objective as possible to find the best mechanism that can be applied to take the country forward without damaging water resources,” she said. “I want what is best for South Africa, especially regarding environmental affairs.”

When considering licences, Molewa said only issues around water resources, such as the potential impact of chemicals used in the process, would be considered. “We will take every precaution to ensure that the possible impact of fracking on our water is carefully, carefully, managed and minimised.”

Last month, Trade and Industry Minister Rob

Davies said the government could authorise shale gas exploration before next year’s elections. “Of course we are not going to do this in any kind of irresponsible way,” he said. “We obviously have to bear in mind all the environmental implications.”

The Alliance Against Fracking in SA last month said it believed the country’s laws were “inadequate to control an industry with a severely tarnished reputation and the process of fracking”.

Treasure Karoo Action Group chairman Jonathan Deal said last month the government had largely relied on research commissioned by the Mineral Resources Department to investigate the potential consequences of fracking.

“In our considered view [this research] is singularly inadequate, considering the multi-disciplinary nature of mining activity,” Deal said.

Molewa also outlined 12 key policy positions in the National Water Policy Review to address legislative gaps relating to the sector. These included access to basic water supply, which at present grants 25 litres of water to each person a day. Molewa said this amount could be reviewed.

The policy review also proposed ending temporary or permanent water trading. “It will be obligatory for any holder of an entitlement to use water, which is no longer utilised, to surrender such use to the public trust,” she said.

The principle of “use it or lose it” would see those with water reserves that were not being used, having that water taken by the state for reallocation, to maximise the efficiency of water use. – Sapa, Reuters

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