Fracking receives a frosty welcome in the Karoo

The second installment of its kind, the annual Karoo Development Conference enabled a much-needed platform for dialogue and interaction in the normally quiet Karoo. With the area making headlines after recently announced plans for shale gas exploration and, at the same time, enjoying a surge in tourism over the past year, the 2012 conference covered subjects such as mining in the Karoo; the local agricultural system; development in small towns; community resilience and poverty alleviation.


One of the most anticipated topics was the “Great Fracking Debate” that was chaired by Professor Bruce Rubidge (Wits University and KDF Trustee).

Here are the opening statements made by each of the six panelists participating in the discussion:

1. Mr Doug Stern

– Karoo farmer

* Apologies for missing the first few minutes. Unearthed was busy wrapping up the preceding presentation.

Having travelled to the US to learn more about fracking, Stern argues against a shale gas industry in the Karoo. Unable to see extraction taking place in an environmentally sensitive manner, Stern calls for a shift from fossil fuels and the responsible custodianship of the land.

2. Mr Jonathan Deal
– Chairman of the Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG)

Deal argues that exploration will “add nothing of value but rather expose us to the same risks as would full scale production in the Karoo”. Deal criticizes the way in which the socioeconomic status of those in the Karoo have been abused in promoting the shale gas industry.


3. Ms Christy Bragg
– Endangered Wildlife Trust

Brigg describes various environmental impacts that could be accompanied by shale gas extraction in the Karoo. She weighs the promise of shale gas in light of future energy and climate outlooks.


4. Dr David Fig
– Research Associate, Environmental Evaluation Unit, UCT.

An experienced writer and researcher, Fig covers the “resource curse” phenomenon, explores sustainable economic development, questions the viability of the shale gas industry and, on the grounds of a lack of information, experience and legislation, calls for the precautionary principle to be followed.


5. Ms Carin Bosman

– Director of Carin Bosman Sustainable Solutions, former director of Water Resource Protection and Waste Management portfolio for Department of Water Affairs

One of the leading professionals in water resource and waste management in South Africa, Bosman speaks of her experience in environmental governance. Looking at the “politics of pollution”, Bosman questions whether or not the South African government is capable of responsibly pursuing shale gas extraction.


6. Prof. Maarten de Wit
– Geologist, director of Africa Earth Observatory Network

In supporting shale gas exploration, de Wit compares the benefits of a possible unconventional gas reserve in the Karoo to successfully securing the SKA project . De Wit welcomes the fresh knowledge of Karoo geology that will accompany drilling for gas. De Wit withdraws from the discussion to defend science from what he called a “vitriolic” debate.