Agriculture and civil society score a hit against fracking

Groups opposed to fracking in the Karoo have expressed jubilation in their victory against the Minister of Mineral Resources in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

Agri SA released a statement saying it was “ecstatic” about the recent decision by the SCA in favour of Agri Eastern Cape and other stakeholders, that no fracking shall be allowed for the time being.

Civil rights organisation AfriForum and Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) also shared in the victory.

The SCA found that the current regulations regarding shale gas development and exploration should be set aside, because the Minister of Mineral Resources had no power to draft these regulations. Only the Minister of Environmental Affairs is responsible for these regulations and associated procedures.

“This ruling will have an immediate impact on shale gas development across South Africa and is a huge victory for agriculture,” said Janse Rabie, Agri SA policy head: natural resources.

“The question over the competency of the Minister of Mineral Resources to make regulations on shale gas, created uncertainty regarding the management of water availability and pollution. This uncertainty has been the motivation for Agri SA to oppose the government’s appetite for shale gas development.”

The Minister of Mineral Resources appealed against an earlier decision in the Eastern Cape High Court where Agri Eastern Cape president, Doug Stern successfully litigated that the existing regulations be set aside.

“Reckless fracking directly threatens agriculture, food security and the environment,” said Stern. “We believe this victory is a victory for every South African.”

“The victory shows that no regulation or policy is set in stone,” said Omri van Zyl, Agri SA executive director. “Our member, Agri Eastern Cape’s pro-active action protected the interests of agriculture across South Africa.”

In its statement, AfriForum said it and TKAG had been involved in litigation for years to prevent the implementation of fracking for gas extraction in the Karoo.

Morné Mostert, head of local government affairs at AfriForum, said this was a major victory to ensure that the environment is preserved. “We must ensure that future generations have a place in which to live sustainably. We cannot afford to take short-sighted decision,” he said.

Mostert said the ruling was proof of the necessity for the Departments of Mineral Resources and Environmental Affairs to consult with organisations like AfriForum and TKAG, rather than blatantly continuing and making wrong decisions.

Jonathan Deal, CEO of TKAG, said that the ruling justifies the reservations that AfriForum and TKAG had about the regulations and fracking technology.

“The victory was made possible thanks to AfriForum’s continued support and resources to wage the court battle. AfriForum protects civil and human rights; it works to the benefit of the man on the street and the community. We will continue with them to protect the country against the damages of fracking,” Deal said.

“South Africa simply does not have enough resources to handle this industry – water is a resource that one simply cannot waste.”

AfriForum said Shell had already down scaled its fracking plans in the Karoo as a result of continuous pressure from AfriForum and TKAG.

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