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Texas oil, gas explorers again target huge strip of KZN

  Monday, 25 January 2016
 Tony Carnie (The Mercury)
Texas oil, gas explorers again target huge strip of KZN

"A Texas-based oil and gas exploration company is pushing ahead with three more public meetings to outline controversial plans to search for oil and gas on almost 10 000 KwaZulu-Natal farms."

The exploration – that could lead to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) – covers a vast, 1.5 million hectare strip of land that stretches from Richmond in southern KZN almost as far north as Ulundi.

The exploration area covers Pietermaritzburg, Mooi River, Colenso and Kranskop, also bordering Ladysmith, Dundee and Camperdown.

During the first round of public meetings in the Midlands last year, Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration got a hot reception from local farmers, schoolchildren, landowners and other public interest groups.

The objectors plastered the meeting venues with placards, some of which called on Rhino to “frack off”.

Matthew Hemming, an environmental consultant for the gas and oil company, came out of one meeting to find that the tyres of his vehicle had been slashed.

Eventually, faced with overwhelming opposition, consultants suspended the public participation process late last year.

Proceed

Now SLR Consulting’s Hemming says his company has been advised by the Petroleum Agency of South Africa (Pasa) to proceed with the environmental authorisation process despite “strong objections” to the project.

He said Pasa had agreed to extend the environmental scoping process until April 20.

Hemming acknowledged: “Overall the public response was very much opposed to the exploration right application.”

At this stage, the exploration phase of the project would not involve any fracking, he said.

But if commercially viable reserves were discovered, fracking “could be one of the potential techniques for gas production” in KZN.

Three more meetings would be held next month:

- At the Howick West Community Hall on February 2.

- At the Mooi River Town Hall on February 3.

- At the Greytown Community Hall on February 4.

All these meetings are scheduled for 2.30pm.

Frack Free KZN spokeswoman Nikki Brighton said: “We need to focus on saying ‘no’ to any exploration for oil and gas, which will be detrimental to our health and the environment.”

Meanwhile a second exploration group, Sungu Sungu Gas, has announced plans to seek environmental authorisation for gas and oil exploration rights. These would be in the Dannhauser area, south of Newcastle.

Company consultant Brian Whitfield has invited anyone with objections, comments or concerns to contact him before February 16 via e-mail at sungusungu@eims.co.za, or at telephone 011 789 7170.

 

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