Government, conservation group talk fracking | Infrastructure news

Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) recently met with a high-level delegation from the Department of Minerals (DMR) to discuss issues relating to shale gas mining.

TKAG CEO Jonathan Deal, accompanied by Advocate Paul Hoffman from the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa (IFAISA), and Julius Kleynhan, head of environmental affairs at AfriForum, attended a meeting in Pretoria, at the invitation of the Department of Mineral Resources.

Aspects raised by TKAG and AfriForum addressed amongst other aspects, the so-called five critical areas of debate around shale gas in South Africa: regulations on fracking; public participation; the Environmental Management Plans of Shell, Falcon and Bundu; Science-and-the-Precautionary Principle; and the DMR task team, constituted in 2011 by Susan Shabangu, then Minister of Minerals.

The meeting came less than two weeks after the TKAG publicly petitioned Jacob Zuma to re-instate the moratorium, or to take other action to delay fracking pending further scientific investigation and government attention to relevant material issues.


Long overdue process

Commenting on the engagement, Deal remarked that a long overdue process had commenced, and that the initiative exercised by the DMR demonstrated a willingness to acknowledge valid concerns and engage with the public.

“This is just the start of a process that may ideally see fracking approached in a more equitable manner and with due consideration of the various issues, which from a civic stakeholder viewpoint, have been absent and require broader acknowledgement, consideration and resolution from government prior to moving ahead with exploration. Experiencing the seismic activity at the meeting clearly indicated that the environmental risks are very real.”


Transparency is first prize

TKAG believes that first prize for South Africa would be a transparent and scientifically valid approach to the investigation of shale gas resources, with due deference to the tenets of the Constitution.

“We maintain an open mind about the ability of shale gas mining to match the claims of its proponents — if it is indeed the ‘game changer’ claimed by Shell et al, then those claims can be validated by scientific investigation, and a thorough cost-benefit analysis in which science can inform policy.  In our view there is still work to be done on a number of fronts before exploration licences are issued. We expect to see the final regulations on fracking very soon and will read and consider those within the context of the National Environmental Management Act and the Mineral & Petroleum Development Act, as amended.  DMR has opened the doors to further and regular engagement and we intend to make the most of the opportunity.”

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