This means that cntroversial fracking for gas in the Karoo are back on the cards. Fracking has caused controversy and protests across the globe, and South Africa is no exception. To release the natural gas the companies drill down and sideways into a rock called shale, and pump large quantities of water and other chemicals to release the gas. Anti-fracking campaigners warn that this could have an irrevocable impact on this semi-desert region. Shell South Africa is one of the main companies lobbying to begin fracking.
“Cabinet endorsed the recommendations of the report on the lifting of the moratorium. Cabinet further mandated the Minister of Mineral Resources to hold a series of public consultation with interested and affected stakeholders to provide further details,” said Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Collins Chabane, during a post Cabinet briefing on Friday.
Noting the fact that South Africa was an energy scarce country, Chabane said if the country did have shale gas, it would go a long way towards alleviating the pressure and helping to meet the nation’s energy needs.
Energy Minister Dipuo Peters has long been hopeful that should the report find that fracking – which is the method used to extract the shale gas – was possible in the country, South Africa should forge ahead with it as it could contribute to energy supply security.
“As a department responsible for the mandate of security of supply, we are conflicted when it comes to issues related to shale gas. We are conflicted correctly so because we’ve got to look at South Africa becoming self-reliant in terms of energy resources, and if we are informed that there is potential for this resource, it is just for us to encourage the Departments of Science and Technology and Mineral Resources to make it possible if it is proven…” said Peters in a media address in May.
Chabane said the stringent South African standards of environmental impact assessments would be strictly adhered to when reviewing applications from companies who want to undertake shale gas exploration.
He allayed fears that the process of shale gas exploration, which is envisaged to take place in the Karoo in Northern Cape — home of the Square Kilometre Array project — would interfere with the mega science venture.
Chabane said a buffer zone will be enforced between the SKA and the areas where shale gas exploration will be permitted.
The Mineral Resources Department will in due course undertake the public consultation process, where interested parties will get a chance to give their insights on shale gas exploration.