Jonathan Deal
Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG)


Shale gas mining (fracking) has emerged as possibly the most controversial fossil fuel development of the 21st century. The rapid proliferation of the technology (aka – high volume, horizontal,slick-water drilling) across the globe, pits developers and governments against environmentalists and others concerned with sustainability of the ecosystem that supports life on Earth, and that is expected to continue to do so far further into the future than the lifespan of those alive on Earth today. Scientists and economists are at odds with each other over the evidence – for and against. This establishes that a central theme in debate and discussion enveloping shale gas mining is a lack of scientific consensus. This aspect is often manifested as a simplistic and insular position, by supporters and opponents selectively choosing texts that underpin their own views. A practical alternative may be to admit the vacuum of knowledge as a valid reason to research, classify and consider the volume of available data on the subject. It is necessary to conduct a review of known data within an ordered and comprehensive structure in order to move towards a more factually informed position. This has not yet occurred. Not after 10 years of shale gas mining in the United States and nowhere else.
The envisaged review (and here I refer to unique South African conditions), I submit, logically requires a thorough analysis of documented data-from locations where shale gas mining has been experienced, across 14 categories of impact associated with shale gas mining. Inclusivity instead of secrecy from the South African government would aid the process.
In anticipation of audience participation, and with a view to avoiding misunderstanding of the term holistic in this text, the following definition is offered:
Holistic. Holism (from ὅλος holos, a Greek word meaning all, whole, entire, total) is the idea that natural systems (physical, biological, chemical, social, economic, mental,linguistic, etc.) and their properties should be viewed as wholes, not as collections of parts. This often includes the view that systems function as wholes and that their functioning cannot be fully understood solely in terms of their component parts.’
Thus, the holistic environment is expected to mean exactly that. It does not refer to a simple extrapolation of industry generated figures in the United States to arrive at a Shell-sponsored, Econometrix prepared report on which the ANC and now the South African government has made clear its objective to move ahead with fracking. The review, by necessity inclusive of interested and affected parties at appropriate forums, therefore would identify key aspects relative to the technology of shale gas mining and the broad environment in which the technology must operate – with an emphasis on South African conditions. For each identified aspect, the review will source available data, to be documented, compared and contrasted in order to consider the question:
“Having regard for the holistic environment in and applicable to South Africa, has the efficacy of shale gas mining for South Africa been sufficiently proven to permit exploration for the resource?”


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