THE “frack offers” have scored a significant victory in KZN compelling the Texas-based oil exploration company, Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration, to cut back on its original proposals after an enormous total and very voluble public rejection by the provinces residents.
Last year the company lodged an exploration application which covered over a million hectares of KZN involving 10 000 farms.
Due to the explosive negative response from the public to the mere suggestion of fracking the company has now cut back its scale to 850 000 ha and about 6 700 farms. At a series of public meetings called by the environmental consultants, SLR, on behalf of Rhino, the reaction in Greytown and throughout the Midlands and northern Natal was an emphatic “no”.
SLR have acknowledged that there had been “extremely strong” and almost unanimous public opposition to the exploration plan, which could ultimately involve “fracking” with the emphasis being on the environmental destruction, the negative and widespread impact on land and water supply with devastating effects on the livelihoods and social structures.
In its statement released last week the consultants said: “The perception is informed by the widely publicised negative impacts of hydraulic fracturing and the decisions taken by many governing bodies around the world to suspend such activities.
“The related concern is that once an exploration right is granted, it will be nearly impossible to stop the process later. For these reasons the public approach is to close the door on exploration before it opens, thereby preventing any future risk, or potential benefit, from resulting.”
However, despite the opposition, consultants have recommended that exploration go ahead anyway, but it will not be ground-based exploration. The company will focus on an aerial survey method - if this aerial survey suggested commercially viable reserves of oil and gas, further environmental studies would have to be undertaken before any drilling or exploration activities.”
Responding to the announcement the coalition group Frack Free South Africa said: “Remember, there is a very real possibility of Rhino selling the information they gather to another company, who could then proceed with extraction.
“So we don’t want them to get the data - no matter that the techniques are non-invasive.”
The coalition group said the threat to lives and livelihoods in KZN remained real.
“Coal bed methane exists where our water factories are located and will impact our water supplies to the detriment of everyone.
“Mining is already responsible for the disruption of the social fabric of communities and towns across South Africa and no area is able to claim to be better off as a result of mining.”
Members of the public, who would like to comment on the draft environmental impact report should do so before October 14.
Visit www.ccaenvironmental.co.za for information on the revised exploration map. Copies of the report are available for viewing at Greytown, New Hanover and Msinga libraries.
A public feedback meeting, called by the consultants will be held in Greytown on Thursday 6 October at 3.30pm in the Greytown Community hall.