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Anti-fracking group meets government

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The Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) would keep an open mind on claims that shale gas may prove a “game changer” for the local economy, the organisation said on Wednesday.

If the claims were correct, they could be validated by scientific investigation, and a thorough cost-benefit analysis in which science could inform policy, TKAG CEO Jonathan Deal said in a statement following a meeting with officials from the mineral resources department.

The TKAG opposes licensing shale gas exploration, a process that involves hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking.

In his state-of-the-nation address in June this year, President Jacob Zuma said shale gas “is recognised as a game changer for our economy”.

Accompanying Deal at Wednesday’s meeting was advocate Paul Hoffman of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, and AfriForum’s environmental affairs head Julius Kleynhans.

Deal said the meeting was the result of an invitation from the department.

“Aspects raised by TKAG and AfriForum addressed, among others, the so-called five critical areas of debate around shale gas in South Africa.”

These were regulations on fracking, public participation, the environmental management plans (EMP’s) of companies Shell, Falcon, and Bundu, science and the precautionary principle, and the departmental task team formed in 2011 by than minerals minister Susan Shabangu.

“The meeting… created an opportunity for two seemingly conflicting approaches to fracking to explore common ground, and was well attended by staff from mineral resources and other government departments.”

Deal said it was long-overdue.

“This is just the start of a process that may ideally see fracking approached in a more equitable manner and with due consideration of the various issues, which from a civic stakeholder viewpoint have been absent and require broader acknowledgement, consideration and resolution from government prior to moving ahead with exploration.”

The TKAG believed the first prize for South Africa would be a transparent and scientifically valid approach to the investigation of shale gas resources, with due deference to the tenets of the Constitution.

“We maintain an open mind about the ability of shale gas mining to match the claims of its proponents…” Deal said.

The TKAG’s view was there was still work to be done on a number of fronts before exploration licences were issued.

“We expect to see the final regulations on fracking very soon, and will read and consider those within the context of the National Environmental Management Act and the Mineral and Petroleum Development Act, as amended.”

The department had opened the door to further and regular engagement, and the TKAG intended to make the most of the opportunity, he said. SAPA

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