KZN rally to resist fracking plans
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Durban - The custodians of communally owned land in KwaZulu-Natal have urged amakhosi to rally their people to resist fracking plans by an exploration company.
This emerged at a meeting of the board of the Ingonyama Trust, which said it had discovered that Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration South Africa had been in talks with communities in some parts of the province without consulting it.
On Monday, chairman of the KZN House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi Phathisizwe Chiliza, said Rhino was not playing a fair game, and “for that reason we will do whatever it takes” to prevent fracking on Ingonyama Trust land.
“These people move into a particular area, speak to individuals who have some educational background, who work as their go-between with the communities. It can’t be right that people with devious intentions are allowed to put our people’s lives at risk.
“In some areas, like Richards Bay and Uthungulu, we discovered that these people have confused residents, didn’t tell them about the dangers, and have caused chaos. We have vowed to stop this company in its tracks,” said Chiliza
Trust chief executive, Dr Fikisiwe Madlopha, announced last week that a mining trust had been formed to oversee any mineral exploration or planned mining for the benefit of land occupants.
Madlopha said the board had met representatives of the company on March 18, but not the owners or management, as should have been the case.
She said this was contrary to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act.
Madlopha said at the time the trust had told the representatives that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the exploration should be stopped until the company had met properly with the board.
“The board was taken aback when we received a completed environmental assessment report and a July 14 deadline to comment. The Trust is concerned that fracking - a process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas - could pollute the water supply. They also feared agricultural lands could be contaminated. Parts of the province targeted by the exploration company included Umgungundlovu,” said Madlopha. She said targeted areas for fracking were Richmond, Umshwati and Zululand.
However, Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration South Africa insisted it had been keeping the trust updated on the process.
Company vice-president Phillip Steyn said: “The Board of the Ngonyama Trust was notified of each application at the commencement of the EIA and public participation process by Rhino Resources.
“Independent firm SLR Consulting arranged public meetings at various towns in the application area, which were open to the public.”
However, at the request of the board of the Ngonyama Trust, consultation on the EIA process with traditional leaders and the communities they represent had not yet taken place. Rhino has requested and awaits confirmation of a further meeting with the board to discuss their concerns, and an approach to consulting with traditional leaders.
Rhino has also been in direct e-mail contact with the board chairman, awaiting a suitable time for himself and his board to meet, said Steyn.
Shami Harichunder, Umgeni Water spokesman, said he was aware of the fracking proposal.
Umgeni Water was monitoring these developments with a view to assessing and engaging the relevant stakeholders on possible impacts and or risks relating to current and future water resource sustainability, including water quality in the catchments that serve the dams it owns and/or operates in the region.
Umgeni Water had not been formally approached to participate in the debate. “We have watched this debate in the Western and Northern Cape, but now that is coming closer to home (KZN), we are going to look at avenues to be part of this debate, because there is a potential for impact on groundwater,” said Harichunder.
In November last year, The Witness reported that the EFF revealed a former director of Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration was the chairperson of Denel and a legal adviser to Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.
Vusi Khoza, EFF MPL, on Monday said it was a concern that affected communities were not told of the dangers of fracking, and that traditional leaders and the Trust were not consulted.
Environmentalist Desmond de Sa said there was no need for fracking in the province and the country at large.
“If New York decided to stop fracking completely because of the dangers it posed, then why would we allow people to come, take our resources and keep the profits overseas? This thing (fracking) doesn’t create many jobs, so what we want to see is for people getting their land back, and avoiding the pollution of our underground water by this exercise,” said De Sa.
The Department of Mineral Resources’ Solly Petla could not be reached for comment.