Agricultural organisation Agri SA has launched court proceedings in the Pretoria High Court against the granting of environmental authorisations and explorations rights for shale gas to Africa-focused oil and gas exploration and development company Rhino Oil and Gas.
Although the authorized exploration activities by Rhino Oil and Gas will not entail actual drilling, the current legal dispensation in relation to oil and gas in South Africa affords holders of exploration rights the exclusive and automatic entitlement to apply for and be granted full-scale production rights, Agri SA said in a statement this week.
In effect, the organisation explained that this means that entities such as Agri SA, must then resort to the courts from the outset to prevent hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for shale gas from taking root in South Africa.
“In the absence of satisfactory information about the availability and treatment of water to sustain a fracking and shale gas industry in South Africa, Agri SA cannot support government’s apparent appetite for a full-scale gas industry in this country,” Agri SA natural resources head Janse Rabie said.
He lamented that, in the eyes of Agri SA, government is not cautious enough when it comes to shale gas, especially considering that South Africa is already a highly water-stressed country.
Additionally, the statement noted that aerial and seismic survey techniques are not entirely non-invasive. Privacy issues and the effects of the surveys being conducted in areas used for traditional religious and customary purposes, stand to be materially affected and do not appear to have been considered in the granting of the authorisations in this instance, Agri SA noted.
In 2018 Rhino Oil and Gas obtained environmental authorisation to conduct aerial exploration activities for petroleum over large parts of the North West, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces.
In January, the Petroleum Agency of South Africa granted exploration rights to Rhino Oil and Gas with respect to its North West, Free State and Eastern Cape exploration areas.
The KwaZulu-Natal application is currently the subject of the Supreme Court of Appeal proceedings brought by Agri SA’s affiliate organisation in that province, Kwanalu.