Donwald Pressly

Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG), which has conducted a high-profile campaign against hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, is seeking to build up a war chest of at least R3 million to fight its legal cases in court.

Jonathan Deal, TKAG’s co-ordinator, said yesterday that R110 000 in donations had been raised so far, first to appeal Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu’s decision to lift the exploration moratorium. He did not expect to succeed in the appeal to the Department of Mineral Resources and would take the matter to the high court and Constitutional Court.

Shabangu, meanwhile, will release the multi-departmental task team report on fracking and address Parliament today.

Pressed on whether his organisation would be outgunned by the oil and gas firms that seek licences for Karoo exploration – including Royal Dutch Shell, Bundu Oil & Gas, owned by Australian group Challenger, and Falcon Oil & Gas, a US-based company – Deal said his NGO would “not be intimidated” by the “vast money that the… industry is throwing at marketing fracking”. Shell alone had a $200m (R1.6bn) budget.

Jan-Willem Eggink, a manager at Shell, said its investment during the exploration phase would, indeed, be $200m. This included environmental impact assessment costs. The other gas companies have not responded to questions.

Deal said that while a large corporation like Shell said it would abide by environmental conditions, he was concerned whether the smaller companies with lesser budgets could be trusted not to cut corners.

Meanwhile, Deal’s former lawyer, Luke Havemann, is still taking legal action against him. He claims Deal owes Havemann Inc more than R400 000 for “a critical review of Shell’s draft environmental management plan”, the drafting of TKAG’s constitution and “successfully conducting legal proceedings against [Shabangu] in the North Gauteng High Court regarding access to information [on the fracking task team]”.

Deal thought the legal action was “off the boil”, but he had advocates dealing with the matter. He did not owe Havemann the money, he said. page 14