Thursday, February 17, 2011

Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) and the organised resistance to hydraulic fracturing.

The first salvos have been fired in what promises to be a war of attrition: Global business goals, energy demands, political maneuvering and government silence stacked against a remarkable coalition of ordinary people, businesspeople, farmers, community leaders and academics. The controversial issue of fracking was first brought to the public attention on Monday January 31st with an article in the Cape Times and other media relating to Mr. Johann Rupert and the Shell open house meeting in Graaff-Reinett.

In what can best be described as a knee-jerk reaction, one of the founders of TKAG started a group on the popular social networking site, Facebook, and called the group ‘Chase Shell Oil out of the Karoo’. In two and-a-half weeks the site has grown to more than 2500 members. It has been responsible for a deluge of data, anecdotal stories from people involved in the drilling and associated industry, offers of assistance and a source of some really good ideas.

Through the activity on the site, TKAG made contact with others who had specific skills and expertise in this arena and it quickly became apparent that:

This is going to be a long process.
effective resistance will require organisation and co-ordination to marshal and effectively use resources.
nication shall have to be measured, consistent and sensible.
must be ongoing – both of electronic media such as the web and of project plans by the oil and exploration companies.
No one ‘group
acting in isolation can effectively combat the fracking plans of the oil companies.

We will need
the support of, inter alia:
Academics – here and abroad
Big business - (m
edia interest, and funding in the corporate arena)
Civic organisations
agricultural societies, ko-ops, chambers of commerce
Political and government decision-makers.

Environmentally minded groups (birders, hikers etc.)
Religious groups
People who earn a living in the Karoo
People who eat food from the Karoo

ocus group comprises six people:
Derek Carstens - businessman 
Prof. Doreen Atkinson - Director: Research Cluster on Sustainable Development, University of the Free State and Co-ordinator: Karoo Development Foundation
Derek Light (attorney)
Julienne du Toit  (jo
Willem Avenant (
landowner in Murraysburg and creator of a blog in resistance to fracking)
Jonathan Deal (Karoo author, landowner and entreprenu

The central and immediate task facing TKAG is to co-ord
inate this diverse group of stakeholders into a credible, authoritative response to the threat of fracking. We have moved ahead with our strategy and by the time this document is read will be on record with two formal press releases – one launching TKAG and the second a direct set of questions to the CEO of PASA.


  1. Surely one needs to strike a balance. It is good to be concerned, however to improove quality of life one has to develope sustainable development. Clean fuel technologies are better than fossil fuel options. If one can explore (drill) in the gardens of should be ok for the Karoo. The gas at Perston was found at approx 3500m!!! will that affect our ground water? The EP is poor and cant afford to be dictated to by a bunch of misinformed farmers who's only interest is in them selves. as to regards to the Carte Blanche report...a grade 10 student could have done a better job.
    Do you want to revert back to the 18th century or do you want to prosper?. Our country needs technologies like Shale Gas to succeed or else you will be sending your Karoo Skaap by ox wagon to the market...and kapping Karoo bossies to keep warm in the winter.

  2. Anonymos surely sounds like he is paid by Shell. It is the ignorance of the uninformed that will leave our children with a polluted and wasted landscape. If you only have to blink one thought you will know that no-one but the Shell shareholders and the bribed politicians are the ones who will prosper. We have enough renewable energy in SA without having to pour millions of cancer causing chemicals into the most beautiful part of SA. Maybe we should ask Mr Anon and Shell if they will eat some Karoo lamb that has drank the water after they have polluted it. I say take the fight to them. If we all stop buying Shell products now, that alone will send them the message to get out of SA and stay out. I wonder what the Dutch would say if Shell started drilling in the Netherlands?


    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Two natural gas companies have agreed to temporarily suspend use of injection wells in central Arkansas where earthquakes keep occurring.

    Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy and Clarita Operating of Little Rock told the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission on Friday that they've stopped operation of the wells near Greenbrier and Guy pending the panel's next regular meeting on March 29.

    Clarita's parent company is True Energy Services of Ada, Okla.

    The commission says there is likely a link between the wells and the earthquakes. There have been more than 800 quakes in the area in the past six months and a magnitude 4.7 quake – the strongest in Arkansas in 35 years – hit there Sunday.

    The high-pressure wells are used to dispose of waste water from natural gas drilling.

    Was'nt Graaff Reinet beset by an earthquake some 30-40 years ago?

    Marioam 3 hours ago (11:50 AM)
    42 Fans
    I live in northern Louisana and they are fracking down by the Shreveport are now that they found that big shale deposit and already problems are occuring. Animals are getting sick, they have had slight ground trembles and people are complaing about the water. It does not years for the toxins to get into the water around here and the ground water is already contimated with all the chemicals that were dumped during the big logging boom as far back as in the 1950's. There are cancer clusters all over Louisana. Where I live has a large cancer cluster. Children are getting brain cancer as young as two years old.

    1. What absolute rubbish. If there was a link between fracking and animals getting sick, ground trembles, water contamination and cancer, it would have been proven long ago. Fracking has been used since the 60's in the USA. So either the USA has useless scientists (it doesn't), or you're wrong. Wonder which one it is?

  5. Informed (ABOVE) does not seem so informed after all... and as to Marioam .... please stop scaremongering...

    All it does is destroy any credibility TKAG might have.

    Some of the points you raise are fair - but Companies like Shell HAVE to behave responsibily or else the media will have them for lunch!

    The cancer, the poisoning... its not directly related to fracking... its contaminations that happens from other sources... fracking happens really deep in the earth and CANT actually contaminate because there is too much rock seperating the fracture zones from the aquifers - specially in the Karoo where most aquifers are only <50m deep.

    Shell has already committed to not using cancer-producing products (BTEX) like other companies...

    I tell you one thing.. with the increases to my electricity bill from ESKOM... good luck to them! We need the energy... and NO "informed" renewables is a nice option but it wont happen fast enough... and if you want to live in the dark or with giant coal powered firestations going from strength to strength... then good luck with your Conscience renewing your WWF membership this year!

    1. I am astounded to see the number of anonymous comments here. To all: I am opposed to the idea of hydraulic fracturing in the Karoo (or anywhere else for that matter) because it is currently fraught with danger and risk in the places where it is currently being practiced.
      Having said this, and in acknowledgment that we need energy, as is stated above, I could perhaps be persuaded if the companies were to accept full and unretractable liability for any environmental damage they caused, whereby the burden of proof should be theirs to show that they are not responsible, that they pay up compensation first and argue later. Furthermore, the job creation of which there has been talk ought to be put down in black and white and with a guarantee that these jobs will persist for a given period of time.
      The liability for environmental damage may not be waived, even in the event of a company changing 'name' or 'ownership'.
      As to Shell's promises: They have a track record in Nigeria which speaks for itself. Please look into how the Ogoni people of the delta have benefited from Shell's operations. Not that Shell is any different to the other petroleum companies.
      Good luck getting them all on board with regard to accepting full liability and accountability, it just won't happen. Why not if they are so sure of themselves regarding safety issues?
      If this goes ahead, and I fervently hope it will not, then there will be precious few people in the country who will benefit, but hell what wrong with a little delusion hey?
      Hamish Gray

    2. Nice to see some balanced comments on this website from Anonymous, above. Opposing fracking on principle, which has been proven to be incredibly safe, is irrational. We need groups like TKAG to police the companies who will develop these resources when (and let's hope the gas can be developed commercially) it happens. What we don't need is a group of misguided environmental activists stopping a project that could lift millions out of poverty. And I'm not exaggerating here - even if the Econometrix report is massively wrong and developing natural gas in the Karoo only creates 150,000 jobs, you would lift over a million people out of poverty, since every working person in South Africa has nearly 7 dependents on average.

  6. Lets put one thing aside and that the water it uses our water is under threat already why waste it or contaminate it. I urge you guys who think it a good idea to go to Harties and have a glass of green pea soup and see how you feel. Then think about have all the power you need but no water to drink.
    Signed .... Dave

    1. Seawater can be used. And harties' water has nothing to do with fracking or any other kind of pollution. It's naturally brackish.


    Check this web site as of yesterday (8 th Dec 2011)

  8. Concern for the environment is great, but it's absolutely unconscionable to oppose something that could create between 300,000 and 700,000 jobs for the unemployed in this country. Especially when fracking has been proven to be incredibly safe over the past 52 years. In fact, there is not A SINGLE peer reviewed scientific study which shows fracking leads to groundwater pollution. Not one. So why would TKAG fight something which could do so much good for this country? And apart from the jobs, it would add billions to government revenue which could be used to build infrastructure. I hesitate to use the word, but opposing developing our natural gas resources borders on being evil. Granted, there is still some way to go - it hasn't been proven that the gas that is there can be developed commercially, but stopping a company from finding out if it can be developed is just madness. Let's find out if it's there, and then let's develop it and bring the jobs that our people so desperately need.

  9. Johan, have a look at this video, Un-earthed: The Fracking Facade
    It soundly debunks the industry claim that "no documented case of groundwater contamination exists in 60 years of hydraulic fracturing". It all comes down to semantics: firstly, slick water horizontal hydraulic fracturing (which they want to do here) has NOT been around for 60 years, it has only been developed in the last 10 years. This UNCONVENTIONAL method of drilling for gas is as yet untested and have not been used as many times as claimed by industry.
    Secondly, by fracking, the industry means only the actual moment of breaking the rock deep under ground, while the ordinary person refers to the whole operation surrounding shale gas development: waste water handling and disposal, truck traffic, well casings - and here there ARE literally thousands of documented cases of contamination.
    Lastly, non-disclosure agreements have made it incredibly difficult to investigate the scale of contamination. But there are people who speak out about the living hell their lives have become due to shale gas development in their area. And when they do look for help, they find themselves generally unsupported, and up against an powerful industry, that has been exempt form the clean water and clean air acts (in the US).
    France did not ban fracking because it could 'do so much good' for their country. There are currently over a hundred places in the world where fracking is under some kind of ban or moratorium. Why do you think that is, if it is such a wonderful thing?