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The Karoo semi-desert is a vest region that covers more than 400,000 square kilometres, around 40% of South Africa’s land mass, and has remained virtually undeveloped for hundreds of millions of years. Just recently Kgalema Motlanthe, the Deputy President of South Africa has announced that the government has been advised by scientists to allow companies to begin fracking for shale gas in the region.
On Thursday, Rob Davies, the trade and industry minister, said that the cabinet has agreed to begin shale gas exploration in the Karoo before next year’s general election. Environmentalists are angered and have promised to fight the decision in court.
Davies explained that “the gas fields of northern Mozambique, which have just opened, have got about a hundred trillion cubic metres of gas.
The shale gas deposit estimates suggest that it is multiples of the Mozambique level. If that is the case, this could be a very significant game-changer in terms of the energy situation in South Africa.”
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The Karoo semi-desert. (SANBI)
The Guardian notes, that just like in the US and the UK, fracking in South Africa has divided the nation, with many people and groups contesting its development.
Jonathan Deal, the chairman of the Treasure Karoo Action Group, commented that “firstly, we believe that such a decision will have an impact which will endure far beyond the election cycle of the government,” and therefore “cannot be rushed through before next year's election. It will be completely irresponsible.”
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He then said that “secondly, [mining] minister [Susan] Shabangu has promised on various occasions to consult with the public of this country prior to making any decision on shale gas mining. This has not happened, and the people of South Africa at all levels are entitled to be heard on an issue of this magnitude.”
Davies assured that all aspects of fracking would be considered, from the economic to the environmental impacts, before making a final decision. “Of course we are not going to do this in any kind of irresponsible way. We obviously have to bear in mind all the environmental implications including, of course, the nature of the relationships with any company that gets any kind of permit, what is going to be the delivery in terms of any positive impact on the economy.”
South Africa’s national energy grid, which relies mainly on coal fired power plants, is under great strain, with warnings of power cuts across the nation, after the governing African National Congress has worked to bring power to millions of people, who, under racial apartheid were denied access.
The US Energy Information Administration claims that South Africa has the fifth largest reserves of recoverable shale gas in the world, with a total of 484 trillion cubic feet.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com