Shale gas plans sunk by High Court decision, as AfriForum and TKAG had warned

Barely two weeks after the Department of Mineral Resources issued four environmental authorisations to Rhino Oil & Gas, the Eastern Cape High Court effectively set aside the shale gas regulations drafted by the Department of Mineral Resources in 2015, thus leaving South Africa without a legal framework within which to bring about hydraulic fracturing.

The Eastern Cape case had been brought by various farmers and unions, and ran ahead of a similar court application by AfriForum and Treasure Karoo Action Group (the Alliance), which is due to be heard in the North Gauteng High Court in February 2018.

The approved authorisations for Rhino Oil & Gas, which span across large areas of farmland in the Free State, North West, Northern KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, are likely to be affected by this far-reaching judicial decision, as will the plans of other companies such as Shell, Bundu and Falcon, who are keen to pursue fracking in the Karoo.

Speaking to the media in Johannesburg, TKAG’s CEO Jonathan Deal said that the ruling of Judge Bloem had not been unexpected, adding: “Since 2015, the Alliance has highlighted various flaws in the shale gas regulations to no avail. The Department of Minerals [sic] has been unwilling to listen to us or the broader community – perhaps this judgement will get their attention.

“In our view, the regulations are wholly unsuitable for the interpretation and control of various aspects of shale gas mining. At this time we have no indication of whether or not the Department will appeal the Eastern Cape ruling and our February hearing will remain on the High Court role pending further developments.”

Deal’s sentiments were echoed by Marcus Pawson, AfriForum’s Head of Environmental Affairs. He added: “It is encouraging to see that the High Court shares our views on the shale gas regulations and that the hard work that was done by various players in the anti-shale gas lobby over many years is starting to bear fruit. The Alliance remains steadfast in its view of fracking as economically not viable and dangerous to human health and the environment. Given the shocking record of the Zuma administration in managing environmental aspects of mining operations, it is up to civil society to protect the rights of citizens from corporate greed and irrational government decisions.”

Community members can support the Alliance by sending an SMS with the word “Fracking” to 45354 (R1).

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