No fracking ‘victory’

2016-09-20 09:28
Environmentalists still concerned despite deduction in KZN search area.

Environmentalists still concerned despite deduction in KZN search area. (Graphics24)

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Pietermaritzburg - Rhino Oil and Gas has reduced the area it wants to explore for oil and gas in KwaZulu-Natal, but farming and environmental organisations say this is in no way a “victory”.

The reduced exploration area was announced by SLR Consultants in Rhino’s Environmental Impact Report (EIA) report last week.

The first application concerned areas totalling around 1.5 million hectares in KZN, encompassing over 10 000 properties, including farms, in Nqutu, Glencoe, Dundee, Kliprivier, Babanango, Nkandla, Msinga, Estcourt, Weenen, Mvoti, Mooi River, Lions River, Pietermaritzburg, Impendle, New Hanover, Richmond and Ixopo.

The area has now been reduced to 850 000 hectares, covering around 6 700 properties.

“The reduction of land size is purely a cost issue and has nothing to do with goodwill on the part of the company,” said Saliem Fakir, policy and future planning head of World Wide Fund SA (WWF SA).

The KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu), WWF SA and Frack Free SA have said there should be no oil and gas exploration in the country at all.

The EIA report said that Rhino Oil and Gas no longer plans to do ground-based core hole drilling and seismic surveys, for which they were initially seeking environmental authorisation.

The application also now proposes that the analysis be conducted by using existing data and an aerial full tensor gradiometry gravity survey.

Aircraft can survey the land from 80m-300m above ground and will be able to show oil and gas reserves, which could later lead to ground-based drilling if approved.

Fakir said the general sentiment of communities in the affected areas was that there should be no oil and gas exploration — whether fracking was envisaged or not.

“We think Rhino Oil and Gas is wasting their time, and even though the exploratory phase is broken into non-intrusive surveys with a possibility of intrusive surveys in the future — subject to a new application — the underlying concerns will remain,” he said.

Kwanalu director Sandy la Marque said fracking, should it be approved, would require large amounts of water from a province that was suffering from a “crippling drought”.

“How can we see exploration as an option when we don’t even have security of food or water supply, especially considering the risks to the agricultural sector?

“We fear that irrespective of communities’ opposition for whatever valid reasons, if these companies believe that money is to be made, their concerns and opposition will be ignored,” La Marque said.

Rhino Oil and Gas did not comment by the time of going to print.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  environment  |  fracking

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