Over the past week, the Government of Botswana has received a number of enquiries from foreign media about supposed 'fracking', activities being carried out in our country, including the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).
'Fracking' is a slang term used to describe processes involving sub-surface fracturing of rocks, usually through the injection of fluids.
In each and every case our responses to the media have included the following Statement by the Director of the Mines on the subject:
"This serves to confirm that the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, has not issued any mining licence for shale gas or coal bed methane operations in Botswana. However, the minister has issued several prospecting licences (PL) for coal bed methane (CBM) in different parts of the country and a few of those fall within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR):Saber [now Tlou] Energy Botswana (PTY) LTD holds prospecting licences in the CKGR while African Coal and Gas Corporation holds three PLs in the CKGR.
There are currently no fracking operations going on in the country except exploration drilling by various exploration companies. All PL holders have environmental management programs for their exploration projects."Further to the above, attached are the September 2012, and recently released September and October 2013 maps showing all mining licences and energy prospecting licences in our country. As may be seen from these maps, which are published in print and electronically as public documents, there has in fact been a significant decline in prospecting concessions in the CKGR in particular this year.
We would wish to here emphasise that while concessions for energy prospecting have indeed been granted over wide areas of the country there are currently no mining licences for gas extraction in the country, and thus no commercial production involving so-called fracking or any other fracturing techniques. With respect to prospecting, no current operations have been given permission to conduct hydraulic fracking, i.e. fracturing procedures involving fluids in our country. If such a process were to be carried out without authorisation it would be a violation of the Mines and Minerals Act of 1999 and the Environmental Assessment Act of 2011.
This restriction is in recognition by Government of the fact that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) does indeed pose potential environmental risks. Permission has, however, been given in some instances in the past for the use of industrial explosives in sub-surface fracturing, which some may view as a type of 'fracking.' We take this opportunity to further note that the processes and procedures involving mineral licensing in our country are transparent.
In this respect all phases from obtaining prospecting licences through to full fledge mining licences are public documents, which are freely available online at www.gov.bw under minerals. These processes at each stage include environmental clearances, as well as public reporting by listed companies.
Finally, it may be noted that under the laws of the Republic of Botswana all mineral rights within the sovereign territory of Botswana are vested with the state for the common good.
Mr. Nchidzi Mmolawa, Acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Mineral, Energy and Water Resources;
Dr. Jeff Ramsay, Deputy Permanent Secretary for Government Communication, Office of the President;
Mrs. Portia Segomelo, Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary for Environment Affairs, Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism.