Tag Archives: fracking

Much Ado About Fracking

The meetings in Howick West and Mooi River took place as an obligation of SLR Consulting (Environmental Impact Assessors) and Rhino Oil and Gas (the exploiters), to enable interested and affected parties to gain more knowledge on the proposed exploration, its methods and modus operandi in ascertaining the likely presence of both oil and gas, so as to exploit such finds.

Numerous Midlands Conservancies Forum (MCF) members attended the Public Meetings to both learn and raise any objections. It must be made clear that the MCF does not concur with, nor subscribe to some of the reports that have emanated from various protesting factions, nor the boorish way in which the “activists” conducted themselves.

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There was no doubt that a vast majority of attendees were ANTI any disturbance and/or incursion in the rich bio-diverse area of the Midlands. There were, however, many who had hoped to gain a better understanding of the process and procedures involved. Sadly, due to the orchestrated and unnecessary behaviour of some individuals present, the information sought from SLR consulting and the Rhino Oil and Gas team was thwarted.

Philip Steyn, COO of Rhino Oil and Gas made a number of attempts at his presentation which the activists disrupted, thus ensuring a futile outcome. It must however be said that the snippets that he was able to utter, smacked of righteous and condescending assumptions, in the hope that general acquiescence would stem from the economic prospect and job creation possibilities. Does an economic benefit surpass the possibility of a lasting and insidious ecological degradation?

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The MCF and the majority of its Conservancy affiliates do not condone the “grandstanding” and some of the tactics that were a dominating feature of the meetings, nor some of the subsequent reporting. Fracking NO, but let us be informed and know more about the enemy we are facing. There are so many fundamental Eco-based arguments that can be invoked that would be more suitable for an organised opposition to Fracking and related exploitations.

We will continue to engage, but the prospective “plunderers” need to understand that they have failed to connect with the more rural and less advantaged communities. We support these communities’ angry and vitriolic protestations, and the pleas contained in their frustrated anger.

Hopefully the suggestion that an electronic presentation in all appropriate languages be put in digital form, sent to all potentially affected Municipalities, with the request that these are made available to the Wards in their jurisdiction. In so doing, the hitherto (excluded) communities and groupings can become exposed to the threats and consequences of FRACKING.

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Stop Fracking in its Tracks

It comes as a surprise to most South Africans to discover that land ownership does not extend to ownership of any of the minerals buried in the earth. Mineral rights belong to the State. ‘Mineral’ means any substance, whether in solid, liquid or gaseous form, occurring naturally in or on the earth.


We are justifiably proud of our Constitution – it is one of the best in the world. The Bill of Rights section of the Constitution includes our right to an environment that is not harmful to our health and wellbeing and to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations – through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation, promote conservation and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources, while promoting justifiable economic and social development. In reality, economic rights and development goals often override environmental rights leading to a situation where people have to live with toxic air, polluted water and downright dangerous surroundings.

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Two companies, Rhino Oil & Gas and Sungu Sungu, have been issued Technical Cooperation Permits (TCP) by the SA Government for large swathes of KwaZulu-Natal. The TCP permits allow the companies to survey existing geological maps/seismic data and explore the area, but not to actually prospect – i.e. disturb the earth. Landowners cannot legally object to a permit holder entering their property, if they have been given 14 days written notice. Prospecting Permits (issued by Department of Mineral and Energy, not Environmental Affairs) allow the prospector to establish the existence of the mineral or gas by digging test holes or wells. They have the right to extract gas if they find it and, rest assured, they will take it to the next level should they find something! We need to prevent the issuing of prospecting licences as these will inevitably lead to full scale extraction. In the case of fracking the same extractive techniques which are employed in full-scale operations, are likely to be used in the prospecting phase. This has the potential to impact on the water, soil and air in the vicinity.


Most of us agree that fracking in the Midlands will completely destroy the sense of place and our psychological wellbeing, let alone the environmental disaster it could cause. How do we ensure this does not happen? It is vitally important for landowners to be prepared and informed should prospectors arrive at their gate and to ensure they have followed the correct notification procedures. Often environmental consequences are not valued as much as the effect on humans, so make sure you know all about the health issues associated with fracking – pollution from toxic emissions, dust, noise and light, waste disposal, water pollution and the impacts from truck traffic. One of our best allies may be the local Municipality. Make sure that you participate in the public process of creating the Land Use Management Scheme (LUMS) for the area. Listen to others and speak up, don’t expect someone else to deal with these issues on your behalf. Become informed – the internet makes it so easy!


Make friends with local officials. In the Midlands, land zoned for ‘Agricultural Use’ will need to be re-zoned for mining, so current local land use could help prevent fracking. Help your Municipality to understand that they will need to deal with all the waste, water and environmental issues that mining creates, but without benefitting financially. Any benefit in terms of employment creation is likely to be limited and of short duration whereas the negative impact on tourism is likely to gravely affect municipal income and job creation in the area.


Register and comment on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for developments when they arise in your area. Inappropriate development affects our health, water and food security. Start now on smaller projects to get used to the public participation process – don’t assume someone else is doing this work. We will achieve much more with a strong common voice. If we need to fight on behalf of the environment in court, at least our Natural Environment Management Act (NEMA) ensures that even if we lose, costs are not ordered against us. Let’s make sure that it does not come to that.


Other places on our planet have successfully prevented mining with low-tech tactics like refusing to serve or host prospectors in restaurants and B&B’s, creating human barriers that last for months and relentlessly reporting minor infringements like insufficient ablution facilities for workers. The Midlands is renowned for its creativity, surely we will not allow prospectors to destroy our environment for short term exploitation of a non-renewable resource. Support other communities fighting mining, such as Fuleni beside the iMfolozi Wilderness Area, Xolobeni on the Wild Coast and Mtunzini up the North Coast. See how they have approached their stand to keep their ecosystems functioning and learn the lessons to make your campaign more successful. Everyone can make a difference, no matter how small the action may seem.


Sign the petition: extra.greenpeaceafrica.org/petitions/keep-fracking-out-of-the-drakensberg-karoo

Learn from other campaigns:

Angifun’ iFracking

“I have never heard of the possibility of fracking happening in KZN.” The refrain was often the same in schools across the Midlands that participated in the Midlands Conservancies Forum (MCF) Fracking Awareness Campaign, funded by Global Green Grants Fund.

Dabulamanzi pupils were keen to learn more about the issues associated with fracking.

Dabulamanzi pupils were keen to learn more about the issues associated with fracking.

A number of technical cooperation permits have been issued in the Midlands and Drakensberg foothills, which give the holders rights to research the area with a view to fracking. The role of this area as the ‘water factory’ of KwaZulu-Natal cannot be underestimated. It is vitally important to protect these areas which sustain the flow of clean water, supporting the lives and livelihoods of nearly 6 million people downstream.

Crystal Springs

Crystal Springs

Younger learners listened to the ‘The Great Fracking Indaba’ to introduce the concept and illustrate some of the problems associated with the fracking process – before arranging picture cards, which illustrated the story, in the correct sequence. This enchanting tale reinforces the fact that healthy rivers mean healthy people, plants and animals, helping the learners understand the importance of our precious water resources.

Corrie Lynn Primary enthusiastically taking part in our campaign to oppose fracking.

Corrie Lynn Primary enthusiastically taking part in our campaign to oppose fracking.

Older learners watched a presentation about energy and how it is generated in South Africa. Many were aware of our current energy crisis and dependence of fossil fuels. The fracking process was explained before posing the question ‘Could fracking be the answer to our energy crisis?’ At first it looked like a good idea before the facilitator pointed out how much water could potentially be used in each well (6 and 25 million litres), how much sand would be needed (150,000 kg) and the array of chemicals that would be pumped into the wells to release the gas during the fracking process.

Dargle Primary

Dargle Primary

Soon it was clear to everyone that contaminated water, soil erosion, potential threats to human health and destruction of sensitive environments were not a reasonable price to pay for this energy. Alternates that do less harm like solar and wind were explored. “All along, I have been made to believe the only solution to our energy crisis is fracking. I was not made aware of the environmental implications. A better solution, I think, will be solar energy.” Gregory Radebe, a teacher Bruntville Primary School, said with conviction.

Bruntville Primary understands that fracking is not the answer to our energy crisis and explored other options such as solar and wind power.

Bruntville Primary understands that fracking is not the answer to our energy crisis and explored other options such as solar and wind power.

Discussion turned to ways citizens could make their voices heard – by lobbying politicians, signing petitions and demanding that our constitutional right to an environment not harmful to our health is upheld. Khumbulani Khuzwayo in Grade 7 decided he would post the fracking awareness pamphlets (in English and isiZulu) at the bus stop so that more people would be informed about fracking. After the lively debate, everyone was encouraged sign a petition to voice their opinion against Fracking.

Signing the petition to make her voice heard.

Signing the petition

Although this was entirely voluntary most learners were keen to take a stand in support of their environment. “Stop fracking and destroying the trees. Please don’t do that – it is our future” wrote Zothani Njokwe (age 11) Thenjiwe Ncgobo, Principal of Corrie Lynn School commented “A lot of people and creatures will suffer and a small group will benefit. Learners are ready to stop fracking if it comes to their area.” Val Ellens of Howick Prep School added: “The children loved being involved in the discussion and a highlight was being able to voice their own sentiments on the petition.”

No Fracking Petition Nottingham Road Primary

No Fracking Petition Nottingham Road Primary

Finally, learners and teachers were introduced to the WESSA Water Explorers programme, a fun, inspiring web-based initiative that challenges them to look at how water affects our lives and to take practical actions to save water. As it supports the national curriculum and compliments the Eco-schools programme, teachers were very interested in participating. “Our Enviro Club is excited about the challenges and they use every chance they get to complete another one.” Antonia Mkhabela, Life Science teacher at Shea O’Connor School.

Hawkstone Primary

Hawkstone Primary

The Midlands Conservancies Forum (MCF) opposes, on ecological, economic and social grounds, the use of fracking to recover natural shale gas. Fracking regulations state that a well site may not be located within: 1km of a wetland and 5km from the surface location of an existing municipal water well field and identified future well fields. Clearly, the risk of contamination of groundwater in an already water-stressed environment is simply unacceptable. As the learners at Dabulamanzi Combined wrote on their petition poster “We can’t drink gas! Angifun’ iFracking!”

Dabulamanzi School

Dabulamanzi School

Don’t Fiddle With our Water Factories

In nature, there is no magic water factory – the water on the earth now is the same water that has been here since the beginning of time. Whether in the Karoo or the forests of the Congo, the basics of the water cycle are the same: Water falls on the land as rain, snow, sleet, hail and mist, runs into our rivers, fills our dams and underground aquifers, and flows out to the oceans. The sun evaporates this water, clouds form and some of it falls again on the land. This is the water that we all use. Only 3% of the water on our planet is freshwater (as opposed to saline) and only 1% is available for our use.


South Africa is a water scarce, semi-arid country, and unfortunately, even the little water we do have is often badly managed, used wastefully and polluted. It seems crazy then that hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which uses a lot of water AND contaminates water, should even be considered an option to boost our energy resources! A number of technical cooperation permits have been issued in the Midlands and Berg foothills, which give the holders rights to research the area as a desktop exercise with a view to fracking. In order to verify the amount of shale gas present and its viability as an energy source, prospecting or exploration as it is termed in the oil and gas sector, will need to take place. This activity has the potential to affect groundwater quality as it uses hydraulic fracturing techniques.


The KZN Midlands is a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area. The role of the Drakensberg and foothills as the ‘water factories’ of Kwa Zulu Natal cannot be underestimated. Intact grasslands are important for storing rainwater in wetlands or as ground water which is gradually released throughout the year. It is vitally important to protect these areas which sustain the flow of clean water, supporting the lives and livelihoods of nearly 6 million people downstream. Other free ecosystem services provided by these Midlands grasslands include pollination, soil production, flood water attenuation, carbon storage, cultural and recreational amenities and support to subsistence livelihoods. The uMngeni River catchment supplies 1000 million litres per day of potable water to a vast area including Howick, Hilton, Edendale, Wartburg, Vulindlela, most of Durban and Pietermaritzburg.


The Midlands Conservancy Forum (MCF) opposes, on ecological, social and economic grounds, the use of fracking to recover natural shale gas. Specifically, the MCF believes that the risk of contamination of groundwater in an already water-stressed environment is simply unacceptable. Despite assurances from potential extractors that the technique is safe, evidence of failed safety measures and resultant contamination is increasingly common in areas where fracking has been undertaken, even under first world conditions. We can’t drink gas! Want to be better informed about this issue?


Learn more here: http://www.midlandsconservancies.org.za/prpagefracking.php

We Adore Pink Dyke Swarms

The Karoo basin was once the site of an inland sea at a time in the earth’s history when all landmasses were joined in a single supercontinent known as Pangea. The Permian period (200 – 300 million years ago) ended with the most extensive extinction event recorded in paleontology – 90% of marine species and 70% of land organisms became extinct. These organisms would have sunk to the bottom of the sea, been covered in silt and mud, and then decayed anaerobically, eventually forming the fossil fuels we extract today.


It is important to understand that the Karoo basin is far more extensive than the area we refer to now as the Karoo and includes all of Lesotho, almost the whole of Free State, and large parts of the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

The Karoo basin’s sea was deepest (and therefore has the thickest deposits of fossils) between Graaff Reinet and Somerset East, thinning out completely in KwaZulu Natal at the Mvoti River. Over time these deposits formed what is now referred to as the Ecca geological group, comprising shale and sandstone formations. There are three main types of Ecca shale – Vryheid, Volksrust and Pietermaritzburg shale – in the KZN Midlands.

Map large - Dyke Swarms

In the KZN Midlands there is also a lot of dolerite. Dolerite flowed from volcanoes forcing its way through cracks in other types of rock. It appears as sills (horizontal), and dykes (vertical) intrusions. Dykes are present in such numbers in the Berg and around Nottingham Road that they are referred to as Dyke Swarms (shown on geological maps as bright pink or red lines). Dolerite is a known preferential pathway for liquids.


In the KZN Midlands and Berg foothills, technical cooperation permits have been issued to companies interested in extracting the natural gas that may be trapped in the shale, using a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or more commonly, fracking. Sand, water and chemicals are pumped into a well under pressure, which creates cracks in the rock, releasing the gas. The presence of Dolerite, however, makes drilling more difficult and less profitable, as well as increasing the risk of groundwater pollution and the movement of water from the fracking area.


In order to verify the amount of shale gas present in the Midlands and its viability as an energy source, further exploration will need to take place in the form of test wells. Test wells are drilled through rock layers containing sub-surface and deep aquifers of groundwater as the companies search for the shale rock that may hold shale gas. Although the wells are encased in sophisticated layers of concrete, there is concern about the concrete failing and the fracking chemicals escaping into groundwater.

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In the Karoo situation, accounts of the South African state owned company Soekor’s drilling efforts in the 1960’s, indicate that drilling fluid travelled for many kilometres from one well – probably along a dolerite fault.


This surely means that in order to protect our ground- and surface- water that the KZN Midlands shale should not be mined or prospected? Remember that groundwater is recharged from the surface water and eventually flows to the surface naturally, ‘daylighting’ into springs and seeps. If our groundwater is contaminated, then not only will it affect those using groundwater from boreholes, but also the rest of us who use water from the streams, rivers and dams into which it ultimately flows. The Midlands Conservancies Forum believes the precautionary principle should be invoked, as the risk is too high.

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The shale in KZN is located in a relatively narrow layer, which means that yields will be low and thus not profitable. The presence of these Dolerite dykes should also deter prospectors, but we need to remain alert.

Swarming Dykes

Please make sure you are well informed: http://www.midlandsconservancies.org.za/prpagefracking.php

Fracking – Boom, Bust, Banned?

Despite the occasional drizzle this summer, we have not had our usual rainfall.  We are experiencing a drought as anyone who observes dam levels will have noticed.   Can you imagine the state we would be in if frackers had contaminated our groundwater?

Prospecting licences to explore fracking options in KZN may not seem like such a great asset following the news that New York State has banned fracking.  However, we still need to be on the alert as the opportunity to make some money in the short term is usually high on the agenda of mining companies.

The Midlands Conservancies Forum falls within a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area.   In order to determine the amount of shale gas present in the Midlands and its viability as an energy source, prospecting will need to take place.  This activity has the potential to affect ground-water quality.

A collation of some recent articles about some of the issues that have hit the headlines recently, follows.f13

Increased production from US fracking operations is a major reason for the drop in oil prices, but there are warnings that the industry now faces a crisis. There’s no doubt that US-based fracking – the process through which oil and gas deposits are blasted from shale deposits deep underground – has caused a revolution in worldwide energy supplies. Yet now the alarm bells are ringing about the financial health of the fracking industry, with talk of a mighty monetary bubble bursting − leading to turmoil on the international markets similar to that in 2008. In many ways, it’s a straightforward case of supply and demand. Due to the US fracking boom, world oil supply has increased.

Glut in supplies But with global economic growth now slowing – the drop in growth in China isparticularly significant – there’s a lack of demand and a glut in supplies, leading to a fall in price of nearly 50% over the last six months.

Fracking has become a victim of its own success. The industry in the US has grown very fast. In 2008, US oil production was running at five million barrels a day. Thanks to fracking, that figure has nearly doubled, with talk of US energy self-sufficiency and the country becoming the world’s biggest oil producer – “the new Saudi Arabia” – in the near future.

The giant Bakken oil and gas field in North Dakota – a landscape punctured by thousands of fracking sites, with gas flares visible from space – was producing 200,000 barrels of oil a day in 2007. Production is now running at more than one million barrels a day. The theory is that OPEC is trying to drive the fracking industry from boom to bust

Fuelled by talk of the financial rewards to be gained from fracking, investors have piled into the business. The US fracking industry now accounts for about 20% of the world’s total crude oil investment. But analysts say this whole investment edifice could come crashing down.

Fracking is an expensive business. Depending on site structure, companies need prices of between $60 and $100 per barrel of oil to break even. As prices drop to around $55 per barrel, investments in the sector look ever more vulnerable. Analysts say that while bigger fracking companies might be able to sustain losses in the short term, the outlook appears bleak for the thousands of smaller, less well-financed companies who rushed into the industry, tempted by big returns he fracking industry’s troubles have been added to by the actions of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which, despite the oversupply on the world market, has refused to lower production.

The theory is that OPEC, led by powerful oil producers such as Saudi Arabia, is playing the long game – seeking to drive the fracking industry from boom to bust, stabilise prices well above their present level, and regain its place as the world’s pre-eminent source of oil.

There are now fears that many fracking operations may default on an estimated $200 billion of borrowings, raised mainly through bonds issued on Wall Street and in the City of London. In turn, this could lead to a collapse in global financial markets similar to the 2008 crash.

Existing reserves

There are also questions about just how big existing shale oil and gas reserves are, and how long they will last. A recent report by the Post Carbon Institute, a not-for-profit thinktank based in the US, says reserves are likely to peak and fall off rapidly, far sooner than the industry’s backers predict. The cost of drilling is also going up as deposits become more inaccessible.

Besides ongoing questions about the impact of fracking on the environment − in terms of carbon emissions and pollution of water sources − another challenge facing the industry is the growth and rapidly falling costs of renewable energy.

Fracking operations could also be curtailed by more stringent regulations designed to counter fossil fuel emissions and combat climate change. Its backers have hyped fracking as the future of energy − not just in the US, but around the world. Now the outlook for the industry is far from certain. – Climate News Network


The Economist published an article entitled Sheiks vs Shale in December – a different take on the same issue. An extract:

In June the price of a barrel of oil, then almost $115, began to slide; it now stands close to $70 (ML – that was in December; now $47!). This near -40% plunge (ML – now nearly -60%!) is thanks partly to the sluggish world economy, which is consuming less oil than markets had anticipated, and partly to OPEC itself, which has produced more than markets expected. But the main culprits are the oilmen of North Dakota and Texas. Over the past four years, as the price hovered around $110 a barrel, they have set about extracting oil from shale formations previously considered unviable. Their manic drilling—they have completed perhaps 20,000 new wells since 2010, more than ten times Saudi Arabia’s tally—has boosted America’s oil production by a third, to nearly 9m barrels a day (b/d). That is just 1m b/d short of Saudi Arabia’s output. The contest between the shalemen and the sheikhs has tipped the world from a shortage of oil to a surplus.

There are signs that such a shake-out is already under way. The share prices of firms that specialise in shale oil have been swooning. Many of them are up to their derricks in debt. Even before the oil price started falling, most were investing more in new wells than they were making from their existing ones. With their revenues now dropping fast, they will find themselves overstretched. A rash of bankruptcies is likely. That, in turn, would bespatter shale oil’s reputation among investors. Even survivors may find the markets closed for some time, forcing them to rein in their expenditure to match the cash they generate from selling oil. Since shale-oil wells are short-lived (output can fall by 60-70% in the first year), any slowdown in investment will quickly translate into falling production.

This shake-out will be painful. But in the long run the shale industry’s future seems assured. Fracking, in which a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is injected into shale formations to release oil, is a relatively young technology, and it is still making big gains in efficiency. IHS, a research firm, reckons the cost of a typical project has fallen from $70 per barrel produced to $57 in the past year, as oilmen have learned how to drill wells faster and to extract more oil from each one. The firms that weather the current storm will have masses more shale to exploit. Drilling is just beginning (and may now be cut back) in the Niobrara formation in Colorado, for example, and the Mississippian Lime along the border between Oklahoma and Kansas. Nor need shale oil be a uniquely American phenomenon: there is similar geology all around the world, from China to the Czech Republic. Although no other country has quite the same combination of eager investors, experienced oilmen and pliable bureaucrats, the riches on offer must eventually induce shale-oil exploration elsewhere. The Economistf7

You are welcome to use the info-graphics included in the post as you wish. Should you prefer high resolution images, or others useful for use as email, Facebook or website banners, please email info@midlandsconservanciesforum.org.za and we will send them to you.

For more information and other interesting articles, see: http://www.midlandsconservancies.org.za/prpagefracking.php



Fracking Issues – Right Here

Lions Bush Conservancy are justifiably concerned about fracking, as we all should be.  The LBC Committee put together the following information gleaned from an SABC2 program during March.

Hydraulic fracturing (termed fracking for short) to release gas from shale beds is a real possibility in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands. All of Lions Bush Conservancy has underlying shale beds of the Karroo geological system. However, it is possible that fracking may not be viable in our area due to the presence of dolerite dykes that cross the area. The LBC committee is hoping in the near future to have some clarity on this by having a geologist give a presentation to members.

r Lake Lyndhurst 005

The SABC2’s program on the 3rd of March featured an interview with a journalist who has been investigating fracking overseas for a number of years. He stated that one of the consequences of fracking is the contamination of the ground water with gas and hazardous chemicals.  These pollutants can also enter the streams and rivers of the area and cause sickness. As most of the Conservancy’s members rely on either groundwater or the stream and rivers of the area, any contamination could have negative consequences.

r Lake Lyndhurst 149

As fracking is believed to create large number of jobs and the gas extracted could have enormous economic benefit for the country, the present government is more than likely to go ahead with fracking. With the mineral resources of the country in the hands of the government, landowners will have no say in the implementation of fracking. The journalist mentioned above recommends that a landowner should have his water source (if sourced from groundwater or streams) chemically tested before any exploration for fracking starts and obtain a certificate detailing the results.  Should fracking occur and the landowner’s water is contaminated, this certificate can be used to verify the fact that contamination has occurred and the extent thereof. Hopefully then damages can be claimed (see Insurance issues at end of article).

taking water sample res.

Judy Bell, Chair of MCF has put together a proposal to the Water Research Commission for a project to create a data base of freshwater sources in the area.  This would assist landowners with the costs associated with water testing as these can be quite high.  An extract from the proposal:

“The Midlands of KwaZulu Natal (KZN) is considered an area worthy of Hydraulic Fracturing for extraction of shale gas (Fracking) as shown in the following map. Prospecting licences have been issued and the Midlands landowners and other residents have requested an assessment is undertaken to understand the baseline of water quality, prior to any prospecting taking place.

fracking midlands map

The Midlands Conservancies Forum is located within the uMgungungdlovu District Municipality and within a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area. Around 5 million people currently rely on this river and its tributaries for water. In order to determine the amount of shale gas present in the Midlands and its viability as an energy source, prospecting will need to take place. This activity has the potential to affect ground-water quality. For the decision to be taken to prospect, a baseline assessment of water resources, their quality and usage is required to understand the impact any change in water quality may have from prospecting.

Currently, this information is not comprehensive enough to inform decision-making. This project will help to determine how much non-municipal water is being used in the KZN Midlands, for what purpose and its quality over a dry and wet season.

This project’s work will build the capacity of the relevant regulators and inform decision-making relating to fracking and other potential developments in this National Freshwater Priority Area. The database of water resources (both ground- and surface water) currently used by those without access to a Municipal supply will be able to be maintained by the Department of Water Affairs after the completion of the project.

The database of water quality from the snapshot of analytical results of these resources during a wet and dry season, will enhance the knowledge of the status of the water in the area. The development of standards against which the analytical results can be assessed will assist regulators and users alike.”

Another fracking issue to consider is that of Insurance. 

Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) and AfriForum have formally approached South African Insurers and the South African Insurance Association to clarify their policy on the unique risks presented by shale gas mining and ancillary activities.

With the advent of new technology and shale gas mining spreading at a rapid pace in the United States, insurance providers are scrambling to review their polices and adjust accordingly.  For many companies, such as Nationwide, one of the largest insurance companies in the United States, a thorough review of the damages that can arise due to fracking and other drilling activities, has led to the conclusion that it is better for the company to refuse coverage altogether for any damages related to fracking.

According to an internal memo outlining the company’s policy, “After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore. Risks involved with hydraulic fracturing are now prohibited for General Liability, Commercial Auto, Motor Truck Cargo, Auto Physical Damage and Public Auto (insurance) coverage.”  Unsurprisingly, this information has raised legal questions and valid concerns for many US home and property owners.

TKAG CEO, Jonathan Deal is of the opinion that the issue of liability for and indemnity from likely claims is something that communities, homeowners and farmers must be informed about. “The potential for loss here – as a result of an accident – or simply accumulated and unanticipated impacts over a period of time – is enormous, and anyone exposed to these risks – even road users, and people with occasional passing exposure to the activity has an undeniable right to be properly informed by their insurer ahead of time.”

Fracking debate on SAfm: Friday 30 May 2014

WWF and SAfm are hosting a debate and panel discussion on fracking on Friday morning, 30 May at 07:30 – 09:30. TKAG will be represented by Jonathan Deal. Other speakers will include Mariette Liefferink (Federation for a Sustainable Environment) , Dhesigen Naidoo (Water Research Commission) and several others.

Follow these easy steps: Vote in favour or against this motion: ‘fracking threatens our water resources’.

  1. Cast your vote online at www.wwf.org.za/?10963/dd-fracking or send an sms to 34701 (R2 per sms) on Friday morning 30 May 07:30 to 09:30
  2. Tune in or listen online at www.sabc.co.za/safm

fracking web

Boarding the Wrong Bus

This article was written by Vumani Msimang of Venn Nemeth and Hart.

Fracking is a perfect example of what can be done to boost the economy of the country. It is estimated that the shale gas industry can contribute up to R200 billion a year to the country’s GDP and create more than 700 000 job opportunities. Surely that has to be mouth-watering stuff to government and potential investors, especially in the light of the high levels of poverty and unemployment in the country, and hence the need for more investment into the economy.

At the same time, fracking is a perfect example of what unsustainable development is about. At the moment fracking is under a moratorium in more than 140 countries in the world, simply because it is generally agreed that there are very serious environmental impacts associated with it.

Fracking is a means of extracting natural gas from deep underground. This entails drilling a few hundred meters into the ground to form a sort of a very deep well. Once a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals are injected under tremendous pressure into a well. The pressure exerted by water fractures the shale and props open fissures that enable natural gas to flow out more freely for extraction.

In a country where fresh water is very scarce it seems unthinkable that the use of such high quantities of fresh water for fracking can be sustained and justified. Furthermore, the chemicals used will inevitably have a detrimental impact on the underground water as well as on the environment in general. Sustainable development envisages that everyone has the right to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, by ensuring that development and use of natural resources take place in a manner that is sustainable while promoting justifiable socio-economic development. Fracking is definitely not congruent with this notion.

The country has enough problems as it is in terms of environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, pollution, and depletion of natural resources. We don’t want to add to these problems through fracking. There is a bottom line here. Fracking, if allowed, will eventually lead to serious problems no matter what ‘best practices’ are adopted in the process. It’s like boarding a bus to Johannesburg and hoping to end up in Cape Town. The bus goes to where it says it is going to and if one has a problem with that then one is in the wrong bus. The country does not have sufficient water resources to sustain fracking and the chemicals used in fracking. The resultant waste water will cause serious environmental damage. That is where the fracking bus is going to and if we want to end up elsewhere then we had better not board.

Read about the misinformation around job creation at:  http://www.globalfrackdown.org/research/

Watch the frightening scenario in Colarado where 20 000 wells have been flooded: http://www.ForbiddenKnowledgeTV.com/page/24591.html

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Fracking – In the Midlands?

After an inspiring presentation by Francois du Toit CEO of African Conservation Trust and Founding member of Sustainable Alternatives to Fracking and Exploration,  to Dargle Conservancy members and friends this week, Penny Rees writes:

As the saying goes – “Coming soon to an area near you”  Fracking: anywhere with shale deposits and there are plenty in KZN.

Fracking is the extraction of gas from between layers of shale and is punted as a ‘green’ alternative to petrol and diesel.  It is anything but.  The process uses numerous toxic chemicals mixed with sand and water that is blasted underground vertically and horizontally (up to 3kms) into the layers of shale to fracture the rock and thus release the gasses.

night fracking

I was brought up on the adage “when in doubt, don’t” and to me, this adage applies to the issue of fracking as there are no guarantees that our water resources (in particular) will not be severely impacted.

The fracking belt in KZN:

  • Lies against the Drakesberg (amongst other areas) – the birthplace of our rivers
  • Crosses three major rivers – the Tugela, the uMngeni and the uMkomaas. The Greater uMngeni River Catchment is of strategic significance to South Africa as it supports the third largest economic hub in the country, namely the City of Durban, through the supply of water necessary to deliver water and sanitation services for social and economic needs. Can we risk these rivers becoming contaminated?

fracking map


Arsenic, Chlorides, Radon, Radium, diesel oil and benzene are some of the ingredients blasted into the shale.

  • Up to 200,000 litres of chemicals used per frack

The chemicals are either:

  • left behind underground to filter into our ground water and water courses and could enter aquifers (=contaminated borehole water)  or
  • pumped into slimes dams on the surface which are either left to evaporate (with the risk of overflow in our high rainfall area) or have the sludge removed to sewage works for disposal.

Picture1.pnglimes dams

  • Sewage works in SA are not coping with current loads (in the USA sewage works are cancelling fracking contracts as they can’t cope with the loads)
  • Sewage works cannot remove the toxic chemicals
  • Sewage works return treated water to rivers


Current projections are that by 2030 KZN will run out of available water. Apparently the miracle answer for fracking is sea water.  Salt water entering our aquifers and rivers?  In the USA drinking water of some entire communities is contaminated and fresh water is trucked in – by the fracking companies.

  • Up to 20 Million litres water used per frack
  • Each fracking well uses enough water to fill 12,800 swimming pools
  • Each well pad has up to 32 wells: that’s 640 million litres of water per well pad.
  • Currently the uMngeni River supplies 1,000 million litres of water per day to the Midlands and Durban, so each well pad will use up the equivalent of just over one days supply of water to the above mentioned areas – and there will be thousands of well pads.
  • Don’t forget the abovementioned sewage works…

fracking wells


  • Up to 150,000 kilograms sand is used per frack
  • Where will this be sourced? Sand mining of our rivers is already out of control
  • South Africa has a dismal record of environmental law enforcement – if the authorities can’t even control 50 odd sand mines along the uMngeni River, or contain acid mine drainage (in KZN as well as the Witwatersrand) how will they monitor what is happening at the fracking wells?


The water and sand has to be trucked in:

  • Up to 2,000 litres diesel used per frack
  • 130,000 truck visits per well pad for the water and sand alone.
  • The gas has to be trucked out to refineries or pipelines.

Promises of oil companies & Government

Jobs & Poverty alleviation

  • In USA, 400 wells employ only 66 staff.
  • Wells are monitored by satellite from a distance, and a small crew of highly trained staff travel from one well to the next.
  • Boasts made by oil companies of 43,000 jobs with revenue of $7 billion in fact turned out to be only 17,000 jobs and #3.1 billion.
  • We could create 145,000 jobs from sustainable energy if we went that route instead.

Reduction of greenhouse gases

  • With all those tanker trips carrying water in and gas and waste out?
  • Methane is a by-product of fracking and is many times more harmful than carbon dioxide in contributing to Climate Change.

Energy reduction

  • If SA were to stop all coal powered power stations, and burn only shale gas, the difference over the next 50 years would only be 1% in carbon emissions.
  • There is no indication that coal mining and coal fired power stations will be scaled down as fracking intensifies

Exploration rights have been granted. The gas companies are already flying all over our countryside to identify possible sites.

Once these sites have been earmarked, there is only one way to test if there is gas or to estimate viability and that is to build a well – and frack!  If viable, they will then apply for a permit to frack. (picture of the Midlands pre-fracking, from Inhlosane, by Jethro Bronner)

View from top of Inhlosane by Jethro Bronner.res. JPG

The west coast of South Africa has offshore gas estimated to last 200 years.

One of the largest gas deposits on earth had been found off the coast of Mocambique, and the pipeline to bring this gas to SA is in process. So why do we need fracking as well?

France, the Netherlands and Germany have a moratorium on fracking – why?

In the USA some states, 75 local authorities/cities and 7 counties have banned fracking as has Switzerland and France – why?

Poland and China do frack – their environmental record is dismal!

Australia fracks – but here’s the thing – their shale formation is apparently different, so their levels of contamination and problems are vastly reduced.

Research the topic – educate yourself, and then make your own decision on where you stand. I’m standing by my motto of “when in doubt, then don’t.”

fracking oil-gas SAmap sml.

More information

Invite Francois du Toit to give a presentation on fracking to your community. ceo@projectafrica.com

Or have a look at