Gas mining in Karoo upsets industry players

Sometimes a small article can shock you right into realizing how dangerous mankind can be when chasing mineral wealth.  This morning I found myself shaking my head vigorously whilst reading this update on The Tourism Update website.  Samara Private Game Reserve is rallying for support against the mining of natural gas in the Karoo region of South Africa in order to preserve the ecological integrity of the area.
The Karoo is under threat by a process called hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’.  For almost two years, Mark and Sarah Tompkins, Owners of Samara, succeeded in keeping Bundu Oil & Gas, an Australian shale gas exploration company, off their property.  They feared the company’s activities would jeopardize the delicate ecological balance of the Karoo as well as the water systems on which the Karoo is so dependent.
‘Fracking’ is a method in which drillers blast millions of liters of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure in underground rock formations to create cracks for gas and oil to escape more easily.
Supported by SANParks and together with Derek Light, Samara has fought for the safety of the Karoo against fracking.  According to Light, a Karoo attorney who represents farmers and conservationists against the method, the biggest risk is the water and the contamination of that water.  Farmers, communities and environmental NGOs’ livelihoods will also be largely affected.
Says Light of the situation: “Instructed thereto by Mark and Sarah we have twice been successful in warding off the applications of Bundu to secure exploration rights in the region.  They have renewed their application excluding Samara.  Falcon and Shell have joined the scramble for exploration rights, the total area of which will cover approximately 230 000 square kilometers if granted.  We now represent a large number of interested and affected people and will continue opposing this process. We cannot allow ecologically unsustainable exploitation of fossil fuels and the degradation of our environment.  We are grateful to Samara for their continued support of this cause.”
The bid to explore over 230 000 square km for ‘fracking’ will have serious harmful environmental and agricultural impact and poison the already limited water supply in the Karoo.  It takes only one liter of hydrocarbon gases like shale to pollute one million liters of water.  Hydraulic fracturing also requires millions of liters of water, in a semi-desert environment and produces vast volumes of flammable, toxic drilling mud, which then has to be stored somewhere.
Sarah Tompkins, who attended the Shell meeting in Graaff-Reinet on January 28, says: “It is inconceivable that Golder Associates on behalf of Shell have been granted 120 days only to do an EMP which covers the vast area of 230 000 square kilometers.”  I liked one of the comments made on this article: “I support Samara and Sanparks on this. I know nothing about mining but this does not sound minimal impact to me. And who benefits? An Australian mining company. Go frack your own land.” Thanks Onne Vegter, you just coined a really cool phrase: Go frack your own land indeed!

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