Agri SA kicks off anti fracking court battle

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Agri SA announced on Monday that it has launched court proceedings in the Pretoria High Court against the granting of environmental authorisations and exploration rights for shale gas to Rhino Oil & Gas on April 16 2019.

According to Agri SA, in 2018 Rhino Oil & Gas obtained environmental authorisation to conduct aerial exploration activities for petroleum over large parts of the North West, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces.

In January this year, the Petroleum Agency of South Africa granted exploration rights to Rhino Oil & Gas with respect to its North West, Free State and Eastern Cape exploration areas.

The KwaZulu-Natal application is currently the subject of the Supreme Court of Appeal proceedings brought by Agri SA's affiliate organisation in that province, Kwanalu.

"Although the authorised exploration activities by Rhino Oil & Gas will not entail actual drilling, the current legal dispensation in relation to oil and gas in South Africa affords holders of exploration rights the exclusive and automatic entitlement to apply for and be granted full-scale production rights, should exploration indicate the presence of viable oil or gas reserves," Agri SA said in a statement.

"This means that bodies such as Agri SA must resort to the courts from the outset to prevent hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas from taking root in South Africa."

In what Agri SA calls "the absence of satisfactory information" about the availability and treatment of water to sustain a fracking and shale gas industry in South Africa, it said it cannot support government's "apparent appetite for a full-scale gas industry"' in the country.

"South Africa is already a highly water-stressed country. Agri SA is of the view that government is simply not nearly cautious enough when it comes to shale gas," commented Janse Rabie, Agri SA's head of natural resources.

According to Agri SA, aerial and seismic survey techniques are not entirely non-invasive.

"Privacy issues and particularly the effect of surveys being conducted in areas used for traditional religious and customary purposes, stand to be materially affected and do not appear to have been considered in the granting of the environmental authorisations in this instance," states Agri SA.

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