17 September 2012

South Africa: International Groups Rally Against Fracking, TKAG Claims

Photo: Nardus Engelbrecht/SAPA
File photo: Capetonians march in 2011 against Shell's fracking plans in the Karoo.

Environmental lobby group Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) says several international and local groups have rallied behind their call over the weekend to oppose fracking in the Karoo.

This followed a Cabinet announcement on Friday on the lifting of a moratorium on exploration for gas in the Karoo, which triggered an outcry from TKAG who have vowed to take the matter to the Constitutional Court if Shell and other oil and gas companies were to start fracking in the area.

Fracking, widely under attack in the USA, Canada and other nations, is a mining technique in which water mixed with chemicals is pumped to great depth under the surface to break rocks in order to release gas bound in rock fissures.

TKAG stated that fracking had been banned or restricted in 155 jurisdictions around the world and believe chemicals used in the process would potentially seep into underground water sources. Furthemore, they contend wastewater from the fracking process would absorb radioactivity from naturally occurring minerals such as uranium.

At a press briefing in Cape Town on Monday TKAG chairperson Jonathan Deal said the support they had received over the weekend had been overwhelming.

"It is clear that there is widespread abhorrence to this environmentally harmful, potentially polluting form of mining," he said.

He said some of the international organisations supporting them were Food & Watch, Frack Action, Waterdefense and Artists Against Fracking USA.

He said they had also received a message of support Josh Fox, producer of the award-winning documentary film Gasland.

Locally, he said they had the support of many organisations including the Southern Cape Land Committee and the KwaZulu Natal - based African Conservation Trust.

Deal told the media that the harm done by fracking was potentially irreversible and would negatively impact the environment, health of communities and would not deliver sustainable jobs or energy provisions as promised by mining companies such as Royal Dutch Shell.

He said their research and legal-scientific reviews of the environmental management plans of oil companies Royal Dutch Shell, Bundu and Falcon who had applied to explore gas reserves in the Karoo, had revealed "fatal flaws".

"These flaws mean that the plans of the applicants are at odds with various South African laws and regulations as well as the Constitution of the country," he said.

He vowed that TKAG would appeal all explorations licenses granted to mining companies.

He added that internationally, fracking had been rejected by "tens of millions of people" due to the destructive methods used, and the South African government has not taken that into consideration.

A task team appointed by Mineral Resources minister Susan Shabangu was appointed following the announcement of the moratorium in April last year to investigate the feasibility and environmental impact on fracking.

But although the moratorium was now lifted, the task team's report had not been made public and the task team had "met in total secrecy".

Shabangu's spokesperson Zingaphi Jakuja yesterday declined to comment on the matter, saying the minister would address the media and the National Assembly on the issue tomorrow (11 September).

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