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‘Impact of fracking to be minimised’

Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa during a media briefing on fracting in karoo at the GCIS offices in Hatfield. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa during a media briefing on fracting in karoo at the GCIS offices in Hatfield. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Published Sep 4, 2013

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Pretoria - A notice of intention to declare fracking a controlled activity has been gazetted, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said in Pretoria on Tuesday.

“What this means is that fracking becomes a water use, thus requiring a water use licence.”

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The notice, in terms of the National Water Act, was gazetted on August 23, and allowed 60 days for public comment.

Molewa said objectivity is needed on the fracking issue, “I would like to be as objective as possible to find the best mechanism that can be applied to take the country forward without damaging water resources,” she said.

“I want what is best for South Africa, especially our water resources and environmental affairs.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of fracturing rock by a pressurised liquid to extract natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth.

When considering licences, Molewa said only issues around water resources, such as the potential impact of chemicals used in the process, would be considered.

“As such, we will take every precaution to ensure that the possible impact of fracking on our water is carefully, carefully, managed and minimised.”

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A year ago, Cabinet agreed to lifting the moratorium on applications to explore for shale gas in the Karoo using the fracking method.

The decision was based on recommendations contained in a report on shale gas exploration prepared by a technical task team, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said in September last year.

Last month, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said government could authorise shale gas exploration before next year's elections.

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“Of course we are not going to do this in any kind of irresponsible way,” he said.

“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.”

The Alliance Against Fracking in SA last month said it believed the country's laws were “inadequate to control an industry with a severely tarnished reputation and the process of fracking”.

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The Treasure Karoo Action Group chairman Jonathan Deal said last month government had largely relied on research commissioned by the mineral resources department to investigate the potential consequences of fracking.

“... In our considered view (this research) is singularly inadequate, considering the multi-disciplinary nature of mining activity.”

Molewa also outlined 12 key policy positions outlined in the National Water Policy Review to address legislative gaps relating to the sector.

These included access to basic water supply, which currently grants 25 litres of water to each person per day.

Molewa said this amount of daily water allowance could be reviewed.

The policy review also proposed ending temporary or permanent water trading.

“It will be obligatory for any holder of an entitlement to use water, which is no longer utilised, to surrender such use to the public trust,” she said.

The principle of “use it or lose it” would see those with water reserves that were not being used, having that water taken by the state for reallocation, to maximise the efficiency of water use.

The reallocation of water would prioritise social and economic equity.

“(This policy) is not intended to take water from one race group (and give it) to another,” Molewa said. - Sapa

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