Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu has left the door open for state participation in shale gas extraction in the Karoo, saying the process constituted mining and there was a definite policy for it.
Answering questions during a media briefing on Tuesday on the Cabinet’s decision to allow exploration for shale gas in the ecologically sensitive Karoo, Ms Shabangu replied the "government has taken a conscious decision about participation in mining".
Government policy was clear that state participation had been clearly defined, and that this definition did not specify gas or mineral but rather that a resource was being mined.
"Unless you say gas is not mined, it is mined … the policy relates to this space now," she said.
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Ms Shabangu said new applications for exploration licences were granted during the 14-month moratorium (on fracking). The companies involved had the right to go to court to force the department to grant the licences if they complied with the conditions of the Mineral Resources and Petroleum Development Act.
She said five companies had applied for exploration licences but refused to name them. Companies known to have applied are international oil group Shell, Falcon Oil & Gas and Bundu Oil & Gas.
An interministerial task team recommended that a conditional approval be granted for exploration of shale gas. But it recommended that no hydraulic fracturing or the use of drilling and pumping of chemicals be used for between six months and a year, but would allow for "normal" exploration and surveying instead.
A second recommendation provides for a monitoring committee to supervise exploration operations.
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