Fracking fight hots up

2012-09-08 16:54

A battle royal is looming between environmentalists and energy companies after Cabinet lifted the ban on fracking in South Africa on Friday.

Cabinet made the decision after studying a report on shale gas exploration prepared by a technical task team appointed by Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu last year.

The report said it was safe to begin exploring for shale gas.

At a press briefing on Friday, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane said that because South Africa was an energy scarce country, shale gas, if it existed, would help a lot.

Earlier this year, business consultancy Econometrix released a report saying hundreds of thousands of jobs could be created by the shale-gas industry in the Karoo.

But it could also pollute scarce water resources in the Karoo.

Last month, environmental groups formed an opposition lobby group called SAFE (Sustainable Alternatives to Fracking and Exploration), that they said would fight fracking on all fronts.

Chabane said strict South African environmental-impact assessment standards would be adhered to when reviewing applications from companies applying to explore for gas.

The mineral resources department would also now “steer” a public consultation process.

The Karoo Action Group’s Jonathan Deal called Cabinet’s decision “hasty” and “ill-informed”.

“The task team was only issued with its mandate at the end of August 2011. A similar investigation is taking place in the US, and the organisations involved have specified they will need four years just to investigate and deliver their preliminary report,” Deal said.

Even with the ban lifted, exploration for gas could take up to nine years, before applicants such as Shell could start fracking.

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