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Ramontja briefs parliament on fracking issues

Ramontja briefs parliament on fracking issues

Sep 2, 2014

By SAinfo reporter and SAnews.gov.za

The South African government is working on a set of regulations that will ensure that shale gas exploration does not threaten South Africa’s environment or compromise research projects linked to the Square Kilometre Array, says Mineral Resources director-general Thibedi Ramontja.

Ramontja was briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on mineral resources in Cape Town on Wednesday on his department’s progress on finalising the technical regulations on petroleum exploration and exploitation by means of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The department halted new applications for exploration rights in 2011 in order to investigate the impact that shale gas exploration would have on the environment, and an interdepartmental task team was set up to head this process. This led to the publication of the draft regulations in October.

Speaking at the time, then Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said the potential of shale gas exploration and exploitation provided an opportunity for South Africa to begin exploring the production of its own fuel, and could provide huge impetus for the industrialisation of the economy.

Ramontja said the regulations would be effective in dealing with the risks that shale gas exploration might pose to the environment.

Among other things, the draft regulations provide mechanisms for the assessment of the potential environmental impact of any proposed activities, for the protection of fresh water resources, and for the co-existence of shale gas exploitation and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.

“The draft regulations, once finalised, will result in a regulatory framework that ensures safe extraction of gas, which will contribute to the diversification of South Africa’s energy mix, significantly boost South Africa’s economy and have positive effects on the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).”

Ramontja said the government would consult interested and affected stakeholders next month before finalising the regulations in order to allow exploration to begin.

While it was too soon to estimate the size of the country’s shale gas reserves, or the amount that shale gas exploration would contribute to the economy, he said that companies – both local and international – would not have shown such interest if they did not anticipate making profits.

Shale gas exploration would not only create a new industry, he said, but would also open up new research opportunities for South Africa’s universities.

Read more at SouthAfrica.info

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