The Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources on Thursday said it needed a comprehensive report, as well as insight into the relevant legislation, regarding hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in South Africa.
“This information will empower us to understand all the nitty-gritty aspects that are involved in the exploration for shale gas and will also provide us with the opportunity to discharge our oversight mandate effectively,” committee chairperson Sahlulele Luzipo said.
In a meeting between the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the Petroleum Agency South Africa, the committee was briefed on progress regarding the Regulatory Framework Policy changes and the future of the shale gas industry, on Wednesday.
The committee tasked the DMR to submit a report as the department prepared to process applications for shale gas exploration rights in the Karoo. Three companies – Bundu Oil and Gas, Falcon Oil and Gas and Shell BV Explorations – had applied for exploration rights.
Although the committee raised concern about the level of public consultation conducted by the DMR, it welcomed the fact that the policy was ready to be gazetted.
The committee further agreed to request a joint meeting with other concerned Portfolio Committees including Water and Sanitation, and Environmental Affairs to develop modalities for effective oversight on matters of common interest.
Earlier this month, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) launched a R12.5-million strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of shale gas mining in the Karoo to attain better understanding of the currently little-known potential environmental risks of exploiting unconventional gas resources.
However, the DEA would allow energy companies to simultaneously undertake exploration activities, with the DMR seeking Cabinet approval for supportive regulations.
The Treasure the Karoo Action Group had, however, called on government to delay publishing final regulations and issuing rights for shale gas exploration in the Karoo, until the SEA had been concluded.