Environmental authorisations granted for natural gas exploration on 2.4 million hectares
9 October 2017
The department of mineral resources (DMR) recently granted environmental authorisations to Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration South Africa (Rhino) for natural gas exploration across four provinces.
Agri SA notes this decision with grave concern. The area affected by these authorisations spans across the Eastern Cape, Free State, North West and KwaZulu-Natal provinces and measures approximately 2.4 million hectares.
Environmental authorisation in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema) is a prerequisite for granting exploration rights for natural gas in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act.
The public is afforded an opportunity of 20 days from the date of the notification of the granting of the environmental authorisations to appeal the environmental authorisations. This means that appeals on each of the environmental authorisations will have to be submitted to the Department of Environmental Affairs on or before 22 October. There might not be another opportunity to appeal against this decision later in the process.
According to Rhino’s environmental consultants, SLR, the intended exploration activities will not include any actual hydraulic fracturing at this stage. However, the current regulatory regime governing oil and gas development in South Africa grants the holder of an exploration right the exclusive entitlement to apply for and be granted a production right which may well ultimately result in full-scale fracking.
Janse Rabie, head of natural resources at Agri SA, says it is imperative that interested and affected parties participate in the decision-making processes on shale gas development from the outset to ensure that meaningful input is given on this highly contentious and divisive issue.
Agri SA maintains that given uncertainties relating particularly to water availability and water, soil and air pollution, it cannot support government’s seeming intention to create a full-scale natural gas industry in South Africa.
Rabie urges the public to participate and comment on each of the applications for environmental authorisation with respect to shale gas development that are presently pending throughout the country. Rhino’s application is one of several and it is important to comment on each individual application.