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Govt still on track for Karoo fracking - Zwane

May 17 2017 15:00
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town - The Department of Mineral Resources intends to pursue the exploration of shale gas, but will consult widely with communities and stakeholders when doing so, said Mines Minister Mosebenzi Zwane on Tuesday. 

Delivering his department’s budget vote, Zwane said three vertical boreholes of up to 1km will be drilled in Beaufort West to “assess the groundwater levels and movement”. 

Fin24 earlier reported that South Africa will be pursuing the exploration of shale gas resources in the Karoo basin. The United States Energy Information Administration estimates South Africa has 390 trillion cubic feet in unproven, technically recoverable shale gas resources.

READ: SA's economic future lies in shale and gas - Zwane 

A moratorium has been established in the meantime to ensure exploration is undertaken responsibly, to account for the environmental, water and socio-economic impact of the development.

The Council for Geoscience and the Petroleum Agency South Africa will conduct a scientific programme that will include a plan for sustainable development, Zwane said. “This will attract new investment in shale gas and the broader upstream petroleum sector." 

The Department of Mineral Resources received a budget of R1.779bn in the 2017/18 financial year.
 
Zwane said mining remains at the centre of South Africa’s economy, accounting for 7.9% of GDP and employing close to 460 000 people. 

“We are of the firm view that mining will continue to play a key role in our economy over the next 100 years and beyond,” Zwane said. 

Cooperation with Africa

The Department of Mineral Resources intends to work closely with other African countries, such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Nigeria to learn from their experiences in the area of upstream oil and gas development, Zwane said. 

“Work is already under way in Nigeria and the CAR.” 

Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant said in his speech that government needs to pay close attention to the “fault lines” in the economy. In that context, radical economic transformation means the “flow-through” of benefits to the owners of South Africa's mineral wealth - namely its citizens.
 
In their speeches, opposition parties lambasted Zwane for allegations that he is a close ally of the Gupta family. 

READ: Ramatlhodi spills beans on how Molefe 'helped' Guptas

James Lorimer, Democratic Alliance spokesperson on mining, asked Zwane to clarify the allegations made by former mneral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi that Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and chairperson Ben Ngubane pressured him to help the Guptas take over Glencore’s coal mine in 2016.

Ramatlhodi said he met with Molefe and Ngubane in 2015 at the chairperson’s insistence, AmaBhungane reported on EWN on Tuesday.

During a media briefing ahead of his budget speech, Zwane said Ramatlhodi should be allowed to say what he wants to and answer accordingly. 

He added though that revolutionaries, such as Ramatlhodi and himself, aren’t “pressured” into doing things. “We are trained to take logical decisions – rightfully or wrongfully, and we must own up to that,” Zwane said. 

Wrapping up the debate on the Department of Mineral Resources’ budget vote, Zwane said those members who did not say a word missed the "essence" of the day.
 
"I have a lot of friends and progressive white people in my life and I interact with them every day. They’re prepared to take South Africa forward. I’m not falling into the trap of saying white people are bad.

"But some of the leaders in here must learn to expect a black government is in place. They’re still thinking they’re the better people in South Africa," Zwane said. 

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