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Following AgriSA’s announcement that the High Court had issued an order nullifying regulations governing proposed shale gas fracking in the Eastern Cape, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has said that government remains committed to shale gas exploration. The High Court order revoking fracking regulations will make it extremely difficult for government to meet its target of awarding the first exploration licenses by 2019.

Uncertainty over shale gas exploration continues“We remain committed (to shale gas exploration). We will study the outcome of the court and decide where we go,” he told Reuters. “We are talking about first fracking licenses being granted in 2019 if everything goes well.”

The Minister said that government could appeal the ruling and it was also considering a period of two years before any drilling started, taking into account various environmental and safety concerns.

The application to the High Court to review South Africa’s shale gas regulations, which were put in place sinnce June 2015, was brought by the president of Agri Eastern Cape, as well as 15 other applicants, including the agricultural unions of Graaff-Reinet and Cradock. The court found the minister does not have the authority in terms of the law to make regulations concerning environmental issues.

“The judgment in our favour shows what can be accomplished when community rallies around something as potentially devastating as fracking,” Janse Rabie, AgriSA’s natural resources chief, told Reuters. Campaigners against fracking warn that it could threaten the environment of the Karoo, and particularly its rare wildlife.

Earlier this year, government announced that it might award its first shale gas exploration license by the end of September. This came after earlier environmental objections delayed the process. Royal Dutch Shell, Falcon Oil and Gas and Bundu Gas and Oil are three of the five companies whose applications are being reviewed by the regulator.

However, oil and gas lawyer Lizel Oberholzer has warned that if government’s appeal to this latest ruling is not successful, the regulations will have to be redrafted. This could cause additional delays as a result.

Image credit: Copyright: fouroaks / 123RF Stock Photo

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