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WWF: Fracking decision disappointing

Sep 07 2012 18:43 Sapa

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Cape Town - Conservation organisation World Wide Fund for Nature in SA (WWF-SA) is "deeply disappointed" by Cabinet's decision to lift a moratorium on applications to explore, or frack, for shale gas in the Karoo.

The moratorium should have stayed in place until all the environmental concerns were sorted out, WWF-SA Living Planet Unit head Saliem Fakir said in a statement on Friday.

"We maintain our scepticism on the issue of fracking, and are of the view that the moratorium should have remained in place so that environmental externalities, such as the water and carbon footprint associated with shale gas exploration, could be properly interrogated," he said.

WWF-SA was also concerned about "the lack of transparency and democratic process involved in Cabinet's decision", and called on Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu to release the report on which the decision was based.

Earlier, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane told a post-Cabinet media briefing that the decision was based on recommendations contained in the report on shale gas exploration prepared by the technical task team that was appointed last year.

This was after the department of mineral resources imposed a moratorium on applications for exploration for shale gas - using the fracking method - in the Karoo, amid concerns of possible environmental impact.

"Cabinet endorsed recommendations of the report on the lifting of the afore-stated moratorium," Chabane said.

Shabangu would release the report "at the appropriate time", he said.

WWF-SA said the decision to grant exploration licences for a process that was "banned or heavily restricted in at least 155 instances globally", required much more transparent and careful investigation than it had received.

"The shale gas issue has been handled in an appalling manner. That the task team's brief and findings have still not been disclosed is extremely disconcerting."

The lifting of the moratorium on fracking placed some of South Africa's sensitive ecological systems under serious threat.

"WWF is not convinced that adequate investigation has been made into the environmental footprint of shale-gas mining, a task that should have been allocated to an independent scientific panel, including international experts.

"Even if environmental safeguards were to exist on paper, there is no certainty that companies awarded rights to explore will be enforced (monitored) adequately to ensure that they are complying and making the necessary provisions to deal with environmental damage and rehabilitation," Fakir said.

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