Do more fracking research, says federal organisation AgriSA
THE CONTENTIOUS hydraulic fracturing for shale gas (fracking) in the Karoo and the Northern Cape, despite its potential spin-offs, must be approached with caution to avoid harm to South Africa’s environment and the country’s food security position, Agri South Africa (AgriSA) has said.
“We need more research before we can support it. We need to be sure we maintain and eventually rehabilitate the agricultural potential of that land that will be used in the mining (for shale gas). That is all we are saying. If needs be, we will challenge the MPRDA (Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act) in court,” president of the agricultural industry association Johannes Möller, said.
He recently addressed the National Press Club in Pretoria on the highly contentious and divisive matter of fracking in the Karoo.
He said it was not true that opposition to the fracking project were anti-economic development in South Africa’s rural regions, especially the Northern Cape.
“We are not against economic development, specifically in the rural regions; we are in favour of it. South Africa is urbanising at more than 600 000 people per year and that is not sustainable so we need more sustainable economic activity in the rural areas. That is our viewpoint and that is what we will support. But you have to do it in a responsible way.
“Do all the research. Ensure that our limited water resources will not be destroyed. Ensure that pollution will not be with us for the next 100 years or more and we won’t maintain our food security situation in South Africa.
“We are by far the most food-secure country in Africa and that is probably why we don’t appreciate our food security situation.”
Möller said AgriSA cannot support the government’s move towards fracking, given the uncertainties to water supply and contamination issues associated with shale gas development, and the use of unconventional exploration and production techniques in the hydraulic fracturing.
AgriSA said its provincial affiliate in KwaZulu-Natal recently obtained interdicts in the Pretoria High Court preventing the Petroleum Association of SA from granting respective applications for an exploration right and a technical co-operation permit, together covering in excess of 1.6 million hectares and 15 000 farms to Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration SA.
“The issue with the granting of technical co-operation permits and exploration rights for shale gas in terms of the act is that they give the holders the exclusive right to apply for and be granted production rights,” said AgriSA’s head of natural resources, Janse Rabie.
“It would be imprudent not to take a position on this issue right from the outset, knowing that rights obtained today may already entitle the holders to continue with full-scale production in the future.
“Given South Africa’s precarious water position and the threat to food security should the clear risks associated with hydraulic fracturing and shale gas development materialise, AgriSA maintains that this endeavour must be approached with the utmost caution.”
In April, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane announced that the government had given the go-ahead for shale gas development in the Karoo region.
Even though Zwane said the regulatory framework would ensure that shale gas was “safely developed” through hydraulic fracturing at the time, anti-fracking activists have increased their vociferous opposition to the project.