SA needs to halt its irresponsible fracking rush – AfriForum

Organisation says company given authorization to drill up to 40 exploration wells in the FState

South Africa needs to halt its irresponsible fracking rush

17 August 2023

Environmental authorisation was granted to Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration South Africa (Pty) Ltd by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy on 31 July 2023. The authorisation allows the company to proceed with drilling up to 40 exploration wells in the Free State province across an area of around 753 797 hectare. The authorised exploration area consists predominantly of private land and farms in and around the towns of Bothaville, Viljoenskroon, Kroonstad, Odendaalsrus, Welkom, Wolmaransstad, Bultfontein, Wesselsbron, Koppies and Heilbron.

The company will explore the region for helium, hydrogen and hydrocarbons (oil and gas).

Responding to the recent developments, Lambert de Klerk, manager of Environmental Affairs at AfriForum, stated: “Rhino has stated that it will not make use of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) during the exploration phase. However, once commercially viable reserves are established, well stimulation will likely be required and include fracking. This is of great concern to us.”

Jonathan Deal from Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) agreed, adding: “Since the Department of Water and Sanitation’s proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing and related activities which pose a threat to groundwater resources are still in draft format, the critical baseline groundwater studies needed prior to drilling activities will very likely not take place. The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s rush to allow shale gas exploration under these circumstances while the required legislative and regulatory framework is still in draft format and currently has many serious gaps, means that the environment and human health is being risked through this irresponsible rush to start fracking in South Africa.”

“Conducting environmental baseline studies, including groundwater baseline studies, are critical to prove or disprove groundwater contamination as a result of drilling activities. This was also highlighted in the Strategic Environmental Assessment conducted by several government entities and research institutions. This is very serious, because once the first fracking dominoes start falling, it will become increasingly difficult to halt the process,” concludes Deal.

De Klerk continued: “Apart from supporting organisations such as ourselves, AfriForum urges the South African public to urgently consider the fundamental threat that this authorisation is posing to our Constitutional environmental right and to submit their appeals to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment before 27 August 2023. Affected landowners should obtain legal advice and contact their relevant agricultural organisations for support and guidance.”

Issued by Lambert de Klerk, Manager: Environmental Affairs, AfriForum, 17 August 2023