Friday, March 4, 2011

Shell’s logic/truthfulness questioned

Cape Town, South Africa, March 4th, 2011
Shell’s logic/truthfulness questioned

If Bonang Mohale and Graham Tiley of Shell are to be believed, then Karoo communities and all South Africans can rejoice at the plans of Shell and other mining companies to ‘frack the Karoo.’

Shell claims, amongst other things that:

·        Karoo residents don’t have to worry – Shell will use water far below the supply that the Karoo farmers and community depend on;

·        Shell has been ‘fracking’ successfully and safely for 60 years;

·        Shell will compensate any farmer who can provide proof of financial losses as a result of their activities;

·        The Karoo will be left in a better condition after Shell leaves than what it was before they arrived;

·        Shell’s mining operations are always ‘operated right’;

·        Shell intends drilling less than 28 wells;

·        Shell will provide employment for lots of unemployed people;

·        the EPA in America had favourable things to say about fracking in November of 2010;

·        Shell will use ‘brack’ (salt) water or import sea water to the Karoo.

In response,  Jonathan Deal, co-ordinator of Treasure the Karoo Action group (TKAG), noted that:

·        There have been no conclusive studies of the underground water aquifers of the Karoo on the scale that Shell intends mining. Shell is thus in no position to claim incontrovertible scientific knowledge of this. Shell’s plan to use sea water in the Karoo borders on a lunatic notion and displays a wholesale disregard for the environment, the nation’s roads and all of the towns and communities who live between the sea and the Karoo.

·        Shell repeatedly says that fracking has been carried out for 60 years and is a safe technology. But they don’t say that this is vertical fracking. Horizontal slickwater fracking, which is what they plan to do in the Karoo, involves far greater volumes of water and toxic chemicals and has only been done on a commercial scale since the 1990s. It is this technology that has caused massive problems in the US, with thousands of contamination incidents. It has also never been tried at the depths (4 – 5km) that are envisaged in the Karoo.

·        There are many case studies available where individual landowners in the US who have claimed compensation for real damage from Oil giants have been forced to prove it themselves – a very expensive burden that is tested in high court and simply opposed using the oil companies’ billions until the private persons run out of money – there is no reason to believe that it would be different in South Africa. Is Shell prepared to overturn this principle and admit all claims unless it can prove conclusively in a court of law that no damage occurred?

·        Shell is either uninformed about the Karoo or doesn’t care. The Karoo is a world-famous hotspot of botanical biodiversity with 6 000 species of plants, 40% of which are found nowhere else. The specialized shrubs, grasses and succulents in the Karoo cannot be replanted like a suburban garden. And like any other plant, they will not grow in soil contaminated by salt water and re-cycled water. In fact this can contribute to the pollution of watersheds and soil. Drinking water out of the shallow or deep aquifers cannot be used as it is too precious. The Karoo is too delicate and arid an ecosystem to be rehabilitated. 

·        On the one hand Shell claims that it will generate lots of jobs, on the other that it intends to drill less than thirty wells – which is it? – a few wells or lots of jobs?

·        The EPA chairman may have had nice things to say about fracking, back in November 2010. The facts have changed since then, as anyone who has been following the New York Times fracking exposés of February and March 2010 will know.
The EPA study on how fracking affects drinking water will only be completed in 2014. The Governor of New York State clearly doesn’t think fracking is safe, nor does France and nor do the 160 local authorities in America who have banned it.

Deal concluded that Shell’s claims of being environmentally responsible, open and transparent have been damaged by their latest statements. TKAG called on our government Ministers whose portfolios are affected by these plans to come to the fore in this issue of critical national importance.

·         About TKAG – Treasure the Karoo Action group has emerged as the co-ordinating body, representative of a broad range of stakeholders who are concerned with the plans of Oil and Mining companies to extract shale gas from the Karoo basin. Popular support can be followed and joined on Facebook and at the web address
FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Jonathan Deal on <>  or 023 358 9902 / 076-838-5150. Please quote ref: TKAG001/3/11


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