Shale gas mining is a process that applies the technique of high-volume, horizontal, slick-water fracturing (‘fracking’ or ‘hydraulic fracturing’). It involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into horizontally drilled wells, under hydraulic pressure to fracture the underground shale layers and release gas.

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Press Release

"Shale gas alliance draws a line with SA government" August 17, 2015

The AfriForum/TKAG (Treasure the Karoo Action Group) alliance has served Ngoako Ramathlodi, Minister of Mineral Resources, with a letter demanding specific undertakings and action from the Department.

Key to the letter, which clearly outlines the concerns of the alliance, are among other things the following demands – each of which requires a written undertaking or other definite action by the Minister:

·         A moratorium prohibiting the submission, consideration and issuing of exploration licences and rights prior to the finalisation of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) reports, or alternatively, that the consideration and issuing of exploration licences and rights will be halted pending the finalisation of the SEA and ASSAf reports.

·         Amendment or suspension of the current fracking regulations until such time as the public has been adequately involved in the legislative process and the contents of the SEA have been considered.

·         That the Minister of Mineral Resources will not accept or consider any application or issue any rights for exploration or production to Shell SA or any subsidiary as long as the Batho Batho trust has any interest in Shell SA, either directly or indirectly, and that the Minister will not issue any mineral prospecting or mining licence or right and petroleum exploration or production licence or right to any company in which any political party either directly or indirectly holds an interest.

·         That the Minister of Mineral Resources will consider or cause to be considered the contents of the Canadian and New York reports and provide the alliance with written proof of such consideration within two years. (The Canadian and New York reports stand up to international scientific scrutiny and are unequivocal in their view that fracking holds significant risk to the environment, water and community health. The NY report also decisively questions the claimed economic benefits of fracking.)

·         That the Minister of Mineral Resources will not accept any applications for petroleum exploration or production licences or rights prior to the determination of the resources required to monitor petroleum exploration and production activities and enforce environmental and other legislation applicable thereto.

Explaining the rationale behind the letter of demand, TKAG leader Jonathan Deal said that it was necessary for the alliance to institute this action because President Zuma, various ministers in the Presidency and the DMR have repeatedly confirmed to the media and stakeholders that exploration licences will be granted to the applicants during 2015.

“No one can deny that a vast body of evidence in support of a cautionary approach has developed outside South Africa. The Minister of Environmental Affairs has commissioned the CSIR to conduct a broad and multidisciplinary Strategic Environmental Assessment of all aspects of shale gas mining. The alliance is formally involved in the monitoring of this process, which has already commenced, and we are optimistic that this will be a thorough scientific exercise that will properly inform our government in the appropriate and responsible formulation of policy.” Deal is due to speak on 18 August at the annual congress of the Vroue Landbouvereniging van Kaapland in Cradock and will outline the alliance’s plans to the delegates.

Continuing, Deal reasoned: “As it stands at present, there is no impediment to the DMR in terms of issuing licences for shale gas exploration in South Africa before the country has properly considered all the issues and complied with the obligations inherent in the laws of the country and our Bill of Rights. An example of one single concern is that although the scale of exploration is smaller than that of production, the same intrinsic risks to water, the environment and community health are presented. Moreover, exploration activities will at some point require the use of fracking. The alliance has thoroughly researched its case, and we can find no reason to be silent or to fail to act at this time.”

AfriForum's Head of Environmental Affairs, Julius Kleynhans, confirmed that a specialist legal team had been briefed. “AfriForum has a well-deserved reputation for ensuring that Government operates within the law and the tenets of the Bill of Rights. On the basis of statements and action by Government we are convinced that Government has violated certain laws, and is on the point of committing further violations of legal and Constitutional obligations. It is within our mandate to facilitate the rectification of breaches and to take action to prevent further breaches. The question of shale gas mining in this country is not an issue that should be agreed by a cosy compact between the applicants for licences and our country’s leaders.”

International developments

Meanwhile, a new report by Trillium Asset Management revealed that California’s public pension funds incurred a significant loss of over $5 billion during the past year due to their holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies.

A report by Reuters revealed that despite the hype around shale oil, it currently provides in only one twentieth of global oil demand, which leads to questions regarding the rationale for the scale of global attention on shale oil.

Last week, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced that Shell accidentally spilled 326 166 pounds of butadiene, which escaped through an open valve on a tank at the Shell Oil facility in Deer Park.

"US fracking companies in debt turmoil" July 24, 2015

During the first half of 2015, US shale drillers increased new debt and equity offerings by $44 billion – more than during any half year period since 2007. The deep trouble in the shale drilling sector is well illustrated by the financial woes of Chesapeake Energy – the second largest driller in the US, whose shares crashed 10% on July 21st.  Chesapeake has been dumping its assets as fast as it can in a battle to stay alive.

According to Bloomberg, Chesapeake has been cash-flow negative in 22 of the past 24 years. Between 2006 and 2011, the company sold whole or partial shale play interests for $17.9 billion.  5 buyers were foreign, and included Total, BP, Statoil, and BHP. From these transactions BHP and BP took a $2.84 and $2.1 billion write-down respectively.

Royal Dutch Shell began dumping its shale assets in the US in September 2013, after taking a $2.1 billion write-down. According to outgoing Shell chief, Peter Voser, his biggest regret was getting involved in US shale.

The current financial woes extend across the board to smaller and medium-sized companies too:

·         Quicksilver Resources filed for bankruptcy in March – $2.35 billion in debt; $1.21 billion in assets.

·         Samson Resources – acquired by a group of private equity firms in 2011 for $7.2 billion, has lost over $3 billion to date.

·         Halcon Resources Corp. has narrowly avoided trouble with its banks in June 2013, March 2014 and February 2015. It’s estimated by Standard & Poor that if Halcon doesn’t survive the next redetermination of its credit lines, due October 2015, its unsecured bondholders might get, at most, 10% of the nearly $2.6 billion they’re owed. 

“These figures are the tip of the iceberg for the shale drilling industry. It’s plain to see that if the US banks cut the credit lines they will probably push the drillers into bankruptcy – and that if they don’t, they will be throwing more money after junk assets. When the big names can’t make a profit in a country where everything is stacked in favour of shale gas, how does one expect that they can come to a difficult operating environment like South Africa and get it right?” This is the view of TKAG leader, Jonathan Deal.

“And there’s no place to hide behind the recent crash in crude oil prices – Shell, BP and BHP collectively wrote off more than $7 billion in the two years 2011-2013, and Chesapeake has posted a positive cash flow in only 2 of the last 24 years.”

“Perhaps the most relevant warning to disbelieve oil industry hype, is how President Obama was convinced in January 2012 to tell the US in his State of the Union address that there was close to 100 years of energy from natural gas in the US – a claim that he would not likely repeat today, after the infamous 18 billion barrels of shale oil from the Monterey Shale was cut by 96% following a re-evaluation of the fields by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) in May of 2014. This [the EIA] is the same organisation that contributed to the 485 trillion cubic feet figure for South Africa’s so called shale gas reserves – reserves which are now in SA, are reduced by more sober minds to at best 30tcf.”

According to Julius Kleynhans, AfriForum’s head of Environmental Affairs, the oil and gas industry is awash in a sea of debt, fuelled by wild speculation and unlikely claims of great wealth for investors and countries. “As the pro-shale rhetoric in the US is exposed for the body of lies that it is, countries that have not yet gambled on this Pandora’s box are given another chance to avoid the same trap. Will South Africa step around it or into it?” said Kleynhans.

Meanwhile, the claim that US growth in shale gas consumption is primarily responsible for the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in that country between 2007 and 2009 has been rubbished. A new study asserts that the estimated 10% drop in GHG emissions are linked to the economic recession during the same period. In an interview with BBC, the lead author of the report, Professor Hubacek stated “the other question is what happens with the coal that the gas displaces - if you take it out of the ground, it’s going to be used somewhere. The whole gas story doesn't make a difference…if you want a low carbon future, then why don't you focus on low carbon stuff rather than investing in the wrong alternative which is in my mind, gas.”


"On both sides of the Atlantic, fracking gets a thumbs-down" July 3, 2015

A megastate in the US and a small town council in the UK have reached the same conclusion about fracking. The refusal of a drilling permit for an exploration well in the town of Little Plumpton in Lancashire (UK) has been described by one of the councillors as “one of the biggest planning decisions ever” made by the council. Councillors voted 10-4 in favour of rejecting the application.

The decision was made after significant public backlash and consideration of evidence presented to the council. A similar application in the nearby town of Roseacre Wood was also rejected. This decision flies in the face of enormous pressure from the push of British Prime Minister David Cameron to get fracking going in England.

In New York, after seven years of intensive research into the potential implications of shale gas mining in the State and an initial moratorium instituted in 2008, fracking was officially banned in the State on 29 June 2015.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, Joe Martens said: “After years of exhaustive research and examination of the science and facts, prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing is the only reasonable alternative. High-volume hydraulic fracturing poses significant adverse impacts to land, air, water, natural resources and potential significant public health impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated. This decision is consistent with the DEC’s mission to conserve, improve and protect our State’s natural resources, and to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the State.”

The State of Maryland also declared a moratorium earlier in June.

Leader of Karoo advocacy group, Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG), Jonathan Deal, said: “These jurisdictions are joining more than a hundred others that have come to the same conclusion. Shale gas mining poses documented environmental and financial risk on a large scale. The process of fracking, in even the most favourable financial and geological environments, has failed to deliver the sustainable financial, job and energy benefits promised by its backers. It is daily being exposed as a disastrous alternative to gas from more conventional sources.

“When the leaders of communities numbering tens of millions formally ban fracking, it is surely a very strong encouragement for other leaders in all countries to take notice. America is an energy‑ and job-hungry country too, and they are equipped to use gas without delay. The fact that these states reject fracking as a source of energy is a warning that should be taken seriously.

“President Obama was ill-informed when he stated in January 2012 that America had 100 years of energy from so-called natural gas, and President Zuma has twice stepped into the same trap by rashly calling shale gas an economic game changer for South Africa.

“If fracking is let loose in South Africa, by the time that the results are evident, Mr Zuma will no longer be president and he won’t have to face the music to answer for a decision that essentially favours Shell and defies science. It’s not a game changer, it’s a modern Pandora’s box waiting to be opened.”

Julius Kleynhans, Head of Environmental Affairs at AfriForum concurred: “A comparison between the discourse in South Africa and New York bears a striking contrast. It is clear that South Africa has not taken the documented risks associated with shale gas mining as seriously as New York. New York also adopted a significantly more open and inclusive approach to the process, involving the public throughout the investigation. We are only starting to see this attitude coming through in the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on shale gas. Without the findings, recommendations and identification of information gaps expected to flow from the SEA, it would be impossible for our government to make a justifiable decision on favour of proceeding with shale gas exploration.”

“TKAG and AfriForum are monitoring developments in South Africa closely and we will respond appropriately at the right time,” Kleynhans concluded.


New York:

"Published fracking regulations inadequate"" June 8, 2015

‘Department of Minerals tows the Zuma line’

In an unsurprising move, the final regulations on ‘petroleum exploration and production’, which encompass shale gas exploration and hydraulic fracturing, have been published in the government gazette. Draft regulations were initially published in October 2013.

“Having regard for the fact that Jacob Zuma has in two State of the Nation addresses, told South Africa that ‘shale gas will be a game changer’ it is hardly surprising that his acolytes will follow through, giving effect to his premature and ill-considered declarations,” said TKAG leader, Jonathan Deal.

Industry based rules

“The position of TKAG (Treasure Karoo Action Group), has been and is, that regulations must be based on a broad and specialised scientific platform. These regulations, although displaying some effort to address shortcomings, remain largely inadequate to control an activity which presents the intrinsic risk allied to shale gas exploration and production. It is well established that the regulations were developed from a set of standards published by the American Petroleum Institute – an industry-funded group in the United States. Regulations designed by the oil and gas industry itself will focus on keeping costs down at the expense of environment and community.” TKAG will publish by June 12th, an analysis of the regulations with comment on some of the areas of concern. This will be available for download off the website

Not waiting for South African Scientists to speak

“While the Department of Environmental Affairs heads up a two-year strategic environmental assessment (SEA) into fracking in South Africa, the Department of Minerals is rolling forward with its plans to issue exploration licences before the results of the SEA are released. This is counter-intuitive and ignores precedent in the United States and other countries, where full investigations have preceded the granting of even exploration permits.”

Absent public consultation

“The lawful requirement of public consultation appears to have been overlooked by the Department of Minerals as have repeated promises and commitments from senior officials of the Department to conduct appropriate consultation. Many communities living in the Karoo are still factually uninformed and thus unaware of the potential implications of shale gas mining on their livelihoods. We also believe that public consultation could have contributed significantly to the overall value of the regulations.”

Meanwhile Shell again shows it’s true colours

Giving effect to the untruth (March 15) that the global mining giant’s fracking team was leaving South Africa, Shell will tonight be hosting a meeting in Cradock on its fracking plans. According to the company, Jan-Willem Eggink, head of ‘Upstream’ in South Africa will be present. (Business Times was told that Jan-Willem Eggink - whom Shell sent to South Africa from Libya to monitor South Africa's shale gas opportunity - would be pulled out of the country in coming weeks. Other highly skilled staff would follow him.’)

"New York State fracking report critical to South Africa’s shale assessment" May 19, 2015

"New York State fracking report critical to South Africa’s shale assessment" May 19, 2015

"Department of Environmental Affairs launches study on fracking" May 12, 2015

The Minister of Environmental Affairs today announced the launch of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on shale gas. Also present were representatives from the Departments of Water and Sanitation, Science and Technology, Energy and Mineral Resources.

The SEA is expected to address exploration and production related activities of shale gas development across different scenarios in a holistic and integrated manner and will include an assessment of all the material social, economic and biophysical risks and opportunities associated with the industry.

The Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Council for Geosciences (CGS) will play an integral role in the completion of the assessment.

Responding to the announcement, Jonathan Deal, CEO of Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) stated “We are most encouraged by this development. A SEA is a fundamental step in the appropriate evaluation of shale gas in South Africa, and it is a process for which for which we have been calling since 2011. TKAG will be involved in the process and it intends to use every opportunity to play a pivotal role – from defining terms of reference, to placing specific data in front of the assessors in an effort to ensure that government policy is informed by science.

Provided that this absolutely critical step is holistically managed in an inclusive and scientific manner and that the outcome of the process is permitted to precede government decisions to commit (or not) to shale gas, we look forward to and tender our resources and energy to contribute in a positive manner.

Because there are a myriad of loopholes, shortcomings and general issues related to the current legal framework for shale gas mining, such as the extent of uncertainty around several of the potential impacts, TKAG is of the view that authorisations for exploration should not precede the signing off of the SEA.

The SEA must inject a crucial scientific dimension to the decision-making process and play a significant role in driving the outcome of policy, legislation, regulations and indeed the final decision in connection with fracking.

"South Africa might have to choose between water and gas" May 7, 2015

“When it comes down to drinking water or burning gas, I can’t think of a single person who can do without water.” This is the view of Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) CEO Jonathan Deal to a report from the University of Pretoria’s Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation. In an analysis piece that appeared on 5 May 2015 in Business Day, Prof. Lorenzo Fioramonti, director of the Centre wrote that South Africa could [almost certainly will] be facing significant water shortages by 2020.

Prof. Fioramonti stated that the looming water crisis might dwarf the current electricity crisis and that three main factors are to blame, namely resource depletion (and contamination), the growing demand for water and inefficient and ageing infrastructure. A decrease in rainfall in many parts of the country as a result of climate change may further exacerbate the problem. He criticised the way in which the South African economy treats water as it constantly demands more, while at the same time depletes and contaminates existing resources.

National cost and budget

The article referenced a recent government report which estimated the costs involved in preventing a full-scale water crisis in the next four years at almost R300 billion, roughly more than 100 times the budget allocated by the Treasury to water management nationwide.

Shale gas and water

This warning was issued around the same time as yet another study emerged from the United States that questioned the safety of shale gas mining and the long-term integrity of well casings. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America by a research team from Pennsylvania State University claimed that traces of chemical compounds detected in drinking water may have migrated laterally from deeper to shallower depths followinbg shale gas drilling in the region.

Deal argued that “The government’s indecent rush to licence shale gas exploration and ultimately full scale production illustrates that not only has it ignored the recent global developments in the rejection of shale gas, but that it is prepared to gamble with South Africans’ water supplies in a bid to escape the energy and employment mess facing it. Not only is this disingenuous but it flies in the face of the duty of elected officials to serve the best interests of the people.  Fracking is rapidly becoming an international pariah and if it is let loose in SA, those who were instrumental in such a blunder will find no place to hide from the people.”

"Scepticism on shale gas mounts" April 15, 2015

On the heels of groundbreaking developments last month with the announcement from the US Department of Energy that “shale won’t last beyond the next decade”, comes an article from the US (April 11) by Robert Weiner and Hannah Coombs, supporting views on the high rate of depletion of gas wells and pointing to the significant number of wells that must be drilled, at enormous cost, just to stay ahead of the decline curve. Stating that “We will be dancing to the joy of cheap oil prices until the wells are drilled dry — which could be as soon as five years — and could be facing earthquakes and drinking polluted ground water until then,” the authors reference various authoritative sources such as Drillinginfo and Prof. David Hughes, to support their viewpoint. 

Robert Weiner is a former spokesman for the White House and House Government Operations Committee and was a Chief of Staff for Rep. Claude Pepper, among other senior positions that he held. Hannah Coombs is Policy Analyst at Robert Weiner Associates.

The article refers to new US regulations for the drilling industry that are expected to be implemented in June 2015.

TKAG leader, Jonathan Deal, remarked that he had observed a definite increase in scepticism amongst government officials, academia and the informed public when it came to accepting the figures of jobs, energy and money promised by the oil and gas industry. The industry has a well deserved reputation for overstating, actually lying, about benefits and simultaneously trivializing risk. “They do things like talking about fracking chemicals having some of the same ingredients as toothpaste and ice-cream – and while this is quite true, any informed person knows that fracking fluid is a potentially deadly concoction that no one would want in their toothpaste or their desert.

“Since 2011 TKAG has pointed out the increasing number of independent and peer-reviewed reports that are exposing the ludicrous claims of the oil and gas industry. I think it also establishes cause for President Zuma to re-think his ‘game-changer, game-changer’ litany before he ends up in the same position as President Obama, who in 2012 stated that the US had 100 years of energy from natural (shale) gas.”

Meanwhile, newsworthy occurrences during the past two weeks include the horizontal oil well development (similar technology as shale gas) in Albania by Bankers Petroleum that caused unexpected gas explosions, geysers and flooding resulting in the evacuation of more than 60 families. Closer to home, Shell continue their effort to win hearts and minds with a donation of R5 million to assist with the development of a Seismology Reflection Centre at Wits University. It is expected that the money will be aimed at research and exploration of among others, the onshore Karoo basin.


Statements by Weiner & Coombs:

Article on the incident in Albania:

Video on the incident:

Shell funding Wits centre:

"US fracking bombshell: shale won’t last another decade" April 2, 2015

A US Department of Energy advisory council earlier this week issued a significant statement: "Shale won’t last beyond the next decade.”

The announcement came as part of a study submitted to the Department last Friday by the National Petroleum Council at request of Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz. The report advised that the US should begin an immediate  push to exploit oil in the Arctic waters off Alaska, or be at risk of a renewed increased reliance on imported oil in the future due to the decline in domestic oil production.

The Arctic is believed to hold large reserves of conventional oil and gas.

During the past years, the US has reduced their dependence on oil imports through its exploitation of shale oil reserves, using horizontal drilling and fracking technologies. 

Rex W. Tillerson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil and study committee chair stated that due to regulations and other factors, it is easier to drill in other parts of the Arctic than the area under US authority.

The council claims that technology and techniques are available to safely operate in the Arctic region and prevent and remedy any spills.

Natural Resources Defence Council director for Alaska remarked that: “If there’s a worse place to look for oil, I don’t know what it is. There aren't any proven effective ways of cleaning up an oil spill in the Arctic."

Ironically, due to climate change the decline in ice in the Arctic region has made the region more accessible to exploitation of oil and gas reserves. The report comes at a time when most scientists agree that the world needs to drastically reduce the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels and rely on cleaner technologies.

Royal Dutch Shell, in 2012 attempted to explore in the Chuckchi and Beaufort seas, but the project suffered a series of mishaps, including a series of violations leading to negative environmental impacts when its drilling vessel ran aground and had to be towed to safety. The company is still pursuing drilling in the region.

Responding to the report, Jonathan Deal, CEO of Treasure Karoo Action Group stated “While we are disappointed by the news that the US plans to move ahead with allowing Arctic drilling, we are encouraged by the acknowledgement of the US government that shale gas is not proving to be the ‘game changer’ it has been branded by the oil industry.  The inaccuracy of President Obama’s statement of a ‘hundred years of gas’, which was fuelled by the industry, also quickly comes into perspective. (In 2013, a presentation by TKAG predicting exactly these trends, was released to an international shale conference.)

This development carries serious implications for countries hopeful of achieving growth, revenue and job creation from shale drilling and illustrates clearly that the bullish view of President Zuma on shale gas is premature and ill-considered. South Africa should take note of recent developments and reconsider its strong support for shale gas. SA Tax money spent on planning for and development of infrastructure to service development of onshore gas will cost billions and may not be needed for long, leaving a legacy of expensive white elephants.”



-          The NPC study:

-          Article on the NPC study : needed-now-1.3012163

-          2013 TKAG presentation forecasting economic trends: 

"OPEC predicts tough times for shale" March 22, 2015

Earlier this week the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) forecasted that US shale oil production will decrease significantly by the end of 2015. The organisation said that due to the fact that the price of oil has more than halved since June 2014, it expects a reduction in drilling rigs active in shale plays.

OPEC questions the resilience of US producers to withstand the oil price collapse having regard for the high cost of shale oil production. 

In its monthly report OPEC stated:

“Tight crude producers are aware that typical oil wells in shale plays decline 60 percent annually, and that losses can only be recouped by drilling new wells. As drilling subsides due to high costs and a potentially sustained low oil price, a drop in production [in the US – Ed.] can be expected to follow, possibly by late 2015.”

The report confirmed that the number of US oil rigs has fallen to a record low and has dropped to below 1,000, from 1609 since October last year. During the last week 56 drilling rigs were withdrawn, leaving 866 to remain operational - the lowest number since March 2011.

It was also reported that more US oil companies have filed for bankruptcy protection in recent weeks.

Commenting on the news, Jonathan Deal, CEO of Treasure Karoo Action Group stated “The high operating costs, steep decline curves and shaky economics of the shale drilling industry is not new, but appears to be an increasing obstacle to the longevity of the industry. In fact, Shell has lost more than $2 billion in US shale. The current low oil prices are part of the reason Shell announced that they are disassembling their shale gas team in South Africa and reconsidering some of their projects across the globe to cut costs.There are fundamental similarities between shale oil and shale gas production.”

On Monday Minister of Minerals, Ngoako Ramatlhodi , speaking at the Chatham House extractive Industries in Africa conference in London was quoted as saying that shale gas exploration rights will be issued later in 2015 in South Africa, explaining that “At the moment we are going through the consultation process (with stakeholders such as communities).”

Jonathan Deal observed, “This is not the first time that the Minister has made this untrue statement. To date, the government has not consulted with the public of South Africa on the issue of shale gas mining, despite repeated promises to do so. Our earlier communication to the minister around this statement has largely been ignored.”

TKAG and AfriForum this week reconfirmed their commitment to hold government and operators accountable and to ensure a fair process and outcome on shale gas mining in South Africa.


OPEC article:

Reuters article, Minister Ramatlhodi:


Responding to media questions relating to the announcement by Royal Dutch Shell that the company is disassembling its executive team on Karoo shale gas, TKAG leader, Jonathan Deal suggested that the public move may be a clever ploy by Shell to pressure the government into moving faster with regulations and licences. Shell is still awaiting an exploration right from government, along with Bundu and Falcon, the other two applicants for shale gas exploration.

“Shell is a seasoned campaigner and what may at first blush appear to be a withdrawal from Karoo shale gas, may just be a Trojan horse. International oil prices, a longer-than-expected licensing process and community opposition have all played a role in this current situation” said Deal. “However, I believe that the overriding pressure is to be found in the growing ‘pariah status’ of the technology. Globally, the well-laid and handsomely financed plans of the oil and gas lobby are failing, as the real truth of the unsustainability and risky nature of shale mining emerges.”

Arguing that ‘no responsible government can afford to ignore international and peer-reviewed scientific data’, Deal pointed to recent decisions in Scotland, Wales, Algeria, Canada and New York that illustrated a real and pressing reason for South Africa to put the brakes on its rush to licence Shell and others in the Karoo.

“President Zuma’s utterings on shale gas from as early as his State of the Nation Address in 2014, are surely now regretted by the ANC as being ill-considered and premature. The Government knows full well that it has to commit to a scientifically structured and holistic investigation in the form of a strategic environmental assessment. I am convinced that it is this process that will expose the unsuitability of shale gas as part of South Africa’s energy mix,” he explained. “To state publicly before even the most cursory exploration that ’shale gas will be an economic game changer’ is irresponsible of President Zuma.”

“In any event, TKAG and its alliance partners, including Afriforum remain ready to pursue legal action should this become necessary.”




Jonathan Deal 076-838-5150 or 023-358-9903 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Jeanie Le Roux 072-959-1818 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


"Economics and International Trends Sour Shell’s Taste for SA Shale Gas" March 15, 2015

Quote by TKAG CEO, Jonathan Deal

The news that Royal Dutch Shell and possibly other global oil and gas players are shifting their focus from Karoo gas exploration is most encouraging. It’s high time that the negative aspects around shale gas as a technology came home to roost. TKAG has warned since February 2011 that:

1.                    Shale gas does not produce the numbers of jobs claimed by the oil and gas lobby;

2.                   Jobs are specialised and unsustainable;

3.                    Even the best shale gas wells deplete very rapidly;

4.                   Global estimates of shale gas reserves have been routinely overstated by US agencies and this misinformation
                       has been perpetutated by the likes of Shell;

5.                    Large scale environmental pollution, including pollution of groundwater sources has been concealed behind
                        non-disclosure agreements while oil company executives continue to lie to the public; and

6.                   The South African government has foolishly touted fracking as an economic game changer in the face of solid
                       alternative evidence that establishes a case for application of great caution in such a decision.

In the last 4 months alone, we have seen confirmation of fracking being banned or at the least placed under extended moratoria in two Canadian provinces, Algeria, Scotland, Wales

and New York State. Even in Shell’s home country, the Netherlands, fracking is under moratorium until 2017. This brings close to 150 the number of places where the technology is under attack.

All of this aside, fracking remains a process that risks community health and water supplies. It poses a threat to established and critical sustainable jobs in agriculture and tourism, and its economic benefits are increasingly being questioned by economists and international leaders. And it has been blamed for delaying the vital roll-out of renewable energy while governments have swallowed the marketing hype of the global oil and gas giants.

Even though the current situation in SA may have arisen through the dual influence of the SA Government’s mishandling of this issue and the drop in global oil prices, fracking will eventually be exposed as a bridge to nowhere for global communities.


Shell’s announcement:


Jonathan Deal, CEO. Treasure Karoo Action Group 076-838-5150

Jeanie Le Roux – Director – 072-959-1818

"Government announcement of R108 million for fracking a double edged sword" February 26, 2015

On Wednesday, Minister Nene announced, as part of his Budget Speech, that R108 million has been allocated to preparing for shale gas mining.  Mining Weekly reported that “besides enforcement activities, such as inspections, the department would conduct research and advocacy work on fracking in preparation for licensing shale gas exploration and for monitoring compliance with the regulations once exploration starts.”

“The department receives an additional R108-million over the period for this work,” said Treasury.

Responding to the announcement, Jonathan Deal, CEO of Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) called it a “double edged sword”. “On the one hand, it is encouraging to see that the Department realises the enormous amount of work and research that needs to be conducted before South Africa would be in a position to even consider shale gas exploration and production. On the other hand, our government appears to be ignoring international developments around shale gas which are showing documented negative impacts on communities, the fiscus and the environment.”

Deal continued, “Shale gas is also not proving to be the economic game-changer other countries were hoping for. In the light of this, we are battling to understand why government is spending so much time and resources on pushing this issue, when they are only starting to embark on research now. It is a little late in the game to start with research now – when two applicants are submitting their final environmental management plans (EMPs) and could be receiving exploration rights soon. Regulations have also already been drafted. Good legislation and regulations must be informed by research. This is not the case with shale gas,” Deal stated. “In many respects the government has failed dismally to properly manage the process since 2011.”

“We will be writing to the Minister to enquire about the nature of the budget this money is earmarked for. It is critical that any money spent is on actions to clarify the fundamental issues that have characterised the discourse on shale gas. All necessary aspects must be thoroughly dealt with to avoid a waste of tax payers’ money and an unworkable energy policy in South Africa. If not, more tax payers’ money would be wasted and this exercise would have been an expensive afterthought. TKAG and AfriForum are determined to ensure constitutional adherence, transparency, accountability and good governance with regard to fracking,” Deal concluded.


Mining Weekly Article:

"Algeria and Scotland choose water over gas" February 5, 2015

“Between shale gas and water, the Algerian people will choose water; you think the Algerian state would be crazy enough to endanger the lives of its citizens?” These were the words of Algerian Prime Minister Abdel Malek Sellal.

According to media reports Algeria desert communities south and around the town of In Salah launched fierce protests against fracking activities where they live.

Meanwhile, Scotland Energy Minister Fergus Ewing confirmed a moratorium on the granting of planning consents on all unconventional oil and gas extraction including fracking.,

“Given the importance of this work [research into fracking] it would be inappropriate to allow any planning consents in the meantime,” he said.

Algeria and Scotland are two countries on a long and growing list of more than 140 places around the world where fracking has been placed under some form of restriction or ban. During December 2014 New York State, New Brunswick and Quebec announced their plans to either ban fracking or introduce new and extend existing moratoria.

Taking aim at the South African government’s position on shale gas, Treasure Karoo Action Group CEO Jonathan Deal said that the government was clinging obstinately to its ‘game-changer’ position. Deal argued that the ANC may well have painted itself into a corner by prematurely vowing to licence shale gas mining and pursue the extraction of the resource.

“The conduct of our government in this matter defies belief. A Canadian report placed in front of President Zuma, which surely played a signifciant role in the banning of fracking in Quebec and New Brunswick, appears to have been ignored.”

Comparing SA’s approach with that of other countries, he said: “The government and the applicants to mine shale gas in South Africa are tight-lipped on the international community’s opposition to fracking. The countries and states that have placed a halt on the process also need jobs and energy, but they appear to be allowing science to inform policy, instead of the other way around. President Zuma’s administration, on the back of marketing talk from Shell et al, makes ridiculous claims of jobs, energy, and doubtful safety from the effects of water pollution as a basis on which to make hugely sigificant decisions for this country. It’s wrong.”

Head of Environmental Affairs at AfriForum, Julius Kleynhans, agreed: “Our communities and citizens have the right to be informed and to participate in every decision regarding activities that may impact their health and livelihoods. Bearing in mind that the ANC will share handsomely in Shell’s profits, and looking at how the shale gas debate in South Africa appears to have been deliberately engineered, it is clear that something is horribly skewed. The ANC may have right to make decisions about developments, but it cannot operate outside of the tenets of the Bill of Rights.”

Join AfriForum and support TKAG in the fight against fracking. SMS “Karoo” to 45354. R1/SMS


"ANC increases stake in Shell ahead of shale gas exploration" January 27, 2015

In 2012 news broke that the ruling party, the ANC, had significant shareholding in the oil company Shell and would stand to benefit financially from allowing shale gas exploration. This news caused an outcry and was met with criticism from civil society groups and opposition parties. The ANC’s Batho Batho Trust had a 51% stake in Thebe Investments, which is the local empowerment partner of Shell SA. Thebe Investment Corporation had stakes in Shell SA Refining and Shell SA Marketing. Through Thebe, the Batho Batho Trust effectively had a 12% stake in Shell SA Refining, and a 14% stake in Shell SA Marketing.

At the time, Jonathan Deal, CEO of Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG), stated: “The ANC government has effectively placed itself in a position of being player and referee in the game. This is unacceptable.” Despite calls for divestment by several groups, including opposition parties, to date no steps have been taken to rectify this predicament.

According to an article published in Business Day last week (20 January 2015), Thebe Investment Corporation has recently increased its shareholding in Shell SA to 28%, indicating that the investment company is still committed to its partnership with Shell. The article stated: “In 2002, Thebe bought a 25% stake in Shell SA Marketing. In 2011 this stake was increased to 28%.In 2008 Thebe acquired 25% of Shell SA Refining in order to broaden its exposure. With this latest transaction, Thebe will buy an additional 3% stake for cash … This will then take its stake to 28% of the entire Shell SA operations.”

The most recent increase in the stake comes after a merger of the Shell SA Marketing and Shell SA Refining businesses to form Shell Downstream SA. In essence, these comprise the operations of Shell SA.

"The net asset value of this merged entity will run into billions of rand," Shell SA chairman Bonang Mohale said to Business Day last Monday. "Their (Thebe’s) stake will also amount to billions of rand.” When asked about what this would imply, Mr Mohale said: "It means Thebe must be involved in everything we (Shell) do in South Africa."

Thebe Investment Corporation chairman, Mr Vusi Khanyile, said Shell was the largest single investment in the Thebe portfolio.

Jeanie le Roux, Operations Director at TKAG, said: “The recent move by the ANC investment arm to increase its stake in Shell is concerning, even more so at this time after the inappropriate conflict of interests has already been pointed out since 2012. We would have held this view regardless of the specific political party in power. The timing of past increases and especially the most recent event – mere months before shale gas exploration licenses are expected to be issued – is very suspect.

“We will be taking the necessary steps to ensure transparency and accountability on this issue, even if it means that we have to go to court,” Le Roux concluded.

Julius Kleynhans, Head of Environmental Affairs at AfriForum, agrees: “This is an absolute disregard for the tenets of the Constitution and principles of good governance. The fact that increases in shareholding took place during the government investigation into fracking and before the expected issuing of licenses is very disappointing. If there is any corruption or misconduct involved, we will make sure it is exposed and that the right people are held accountable.”

Jeanie le Roux

Head of Operations


Cell: 072 959 1818 

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Julius Kleynhans                                                   

Head of Environmental Affairs


Cell: 082 829 9182                                                    

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Mariska Batt

Media Relations Officer


Cell: 084 299 6928

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"New York and Quebec ban fracking over health and economic concerns" December 22, 2014

“This is what we have been waiting for – it's a real game-changer!” were the jubilant words of TKAG CEO Jonathan Deal on learning that both New York State and Canada’s Quebec province have made clear their intentions to ban fracking.  “Surely now, and with all of the other information that we have placed in front of President Zuma, his administration will have to place a halt on their plans to proceed with this dangerous and uneconomical mining process in South Africa?”

The news was reported by The New York Times on Wednesday 17 December. According to the newspaper, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, Joseph Marten said he would issue a “legally binding findings statement” seeking prohibition of the controversial process. This comes after the release of an exhaustive 5 year study on the potential risks and benefits of shale gas. (Health Department Report on Fracking in New York State) ( )

Key points of the report centered around the lack of public information, documented health impacts and the fact that the economic benefits to the state would be ‘clearly lower than initially forecast’.

Summarising fracking as a process with ‘great risk and little benefit’, Acting NY State Health Commissioner, Howard Zucker, stated “I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great State of New York.” The potential adverse impacts are wide-ranging and widepread,” he added, citing increased truck traffic and accidents, the potential for air and water pollution, and the inability of small communities to deal with the ‘overwhelming’ costs of compliance with safety measures.

During the same week, Quebec’s environmental agency, Bureau des audiences publique sur l’environnement  (BAPE), released a report, concluding that fracking could have ‘major impacts’ on nearby communities, from polluting the air to increasing traffic and noise. Even with ‘rigorous attenuation measures,’ fracking would still cause a ‘range of annoyances’ for residents hundreds of metres from a work site, the BAPE said. The report importantly also concluded that there is not enough evidence to support the oil industry’s claims that fracking would bring economic benefit. 

According to Deal “Canada and New York have set the standards for what a true investigation into risks and benefits of fracking entails. In July 2014, we placed a substantial science based report from Canada in front of Mr. Zuma and officials of his administration. There has never even been a simple letter of acknowledgement of this report from anyone in the Presidency or even the Department of Minerals.”

“Our position is simple; based on the lack of science, transparency, independent economic analysis and fair representation in the South African investigation into fracking we oppose any move to introduce the technology to this country,” explained Deal. He argued that “the government investigation was completed within a few short months and is in TKAG’s view a complete fiasco because, amongst other issues, Departments such as Agriculture, Health, Rural Development and Land Reform, Transport and Tourism were not even represented in the task team. And by the time that the South African Cabinet decided to lift the moratorium, not a single South African health care professional had provided documentary input on the decision to allow fracking in South Africa.”

“If the ANC pushes South Africa down this road, it is going to rain global embarrassment down on the Zuma administration and expose the slipshod, biased and reprehensible manner in which the government has managed this issue since 2010. These facts will all emerge in court and government ministers and officials, past and present will be called to court to explain themselves to the public of this country,” promised Deal.

Julius Kleynhans, Head of Environmental Affairs at AfriForum agreed, saying “Apart from Quebec and New York, fracking is not allowed in the Netherlands – Shell’s home country. Why is fracking good enough for South Africans if governments in America and Europe do not believe it is in the best interest of their citizens? Costs to tax payers for infrastructure and repairs, maintenance, pollution remediation, court battles, policing and law enforcement and many other issues seem to be ignored by the government. Apart from the obvious risks of pollution and costs to the country, this is fast becoming a significant civil rights issue. We need answers and we call on the government to stop the process and conduct a thorough investigation – like we have asked for since 2011.” 

Interestingly, these developments coincided with the release of a report by the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative which revealed the significant increases in crime, road deaths and health issues associated with the fracking industry in Pennsylvania.


New York:


Pennsylvania report:


Jonathan Deal



Phone: 023 358 9903/076 838 5150

Jeanie le Roux

Head of Operations


Cell: 072 959 1818 

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Julius Kleynhans

Head of Environmental Affairs


Cell: 082 829 9182

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Esmarie Prinsloo

Head of Media


Cell: 072 332 9824

"No fracking in Shell’s home country" December 15, 2014

The Dutch Parliament voted by a 71% majority this week to extend the current moratorium on shale gas in the country to 2017.

Dutch Labour Party leader Diederik Samsom said that it is ‘completely unnecessary’ to drill for shale gas in the Netherlands. He also said that said there would be no drilling as long as his party is part of the governing coalition. Political parties in opposition to shale gas mining (fracking) in the Netherlands are joined by environmental organisations and local communities, a number of local councils, water boards and even brewing groups like Heineken. The primary concern cited by these groups is the risk of pollution.

In the Groningen region of the Netherlands, where conventional gas has been extracted for years, severe problems including earthquakes have made residents wary of the promises around the so-called benefits and safety of gas drilling.

“So while Shell SA’s Bonang Mohale and Jan-Willem Eggink claim that they will ‘make an ecological example of the Karoo’ and ‘leave the Karoo better than [we] found it’, the Dutch obviously don’t want it in the homeland of Royal Dutch Shell,” said Jonathan Deal, CEO of Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG). “

“The fact that the lawmakers of the country are voting so decisively against shale gas is a clear message to thinking people, that they [the lawmakers in the Netherlands] trust neither the process, nor the promises of Royal Dutch Shell.” The South African government’s conduct around shale gas and the ‘game-changer, game changer’ chant of Mr. Zuma (and Shell) is reprehensible in the light of growing international condemnation of this dangerous and uneconomical mining method.”

In South Africa, during 2011, Shell SA were found guilty of false and misleading advertising around shale gas in South Africa, this arising from a detailed complaint submitted to the Advertising Standards Authority by TKAG. “Nothing has changed,” argued Deal; “they [Shell] are still lying and obfuscating.”

Julius Kleynhans, Head of Environmental Affairs at AfriForum agreed “This is a watershed development that the South African government ought to investigate. So far, the government has not once publicly acknowledged the international pressure against shale gas – and has instead swallowed Shell’s bait. Every passing month in which the government continues on its course of a slipshod investigation and various breaches of Constitutional law is firmly paving the road to Court. Afriforum is committed to protecting the civil rights of the people of this country, and our alliance with TKAG will be the vehicle that makes that happen.”

In Albany, New York, a broad-based and specialised alliance of physicians and health professionals (Concerned Health professional of New York) has released an updated report: Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking.”:

The original compendium, released five months ago, has served a critical role in the debate in New York and has been influential across the U.S. and overseas. This second edition includes descriptions of more than 80 new findings, but like the peer reviewed report by Canadian Scientists released to Mr. Zuma and every Premier in South Africa by TKAG, may probably fall on deaf ears and blind eyes in the south African Government.

Also weighing in on scientifically based fact on shale gas mining is PSE Healthy Energy who has released an analysis of 400 peer-reviewed scientific publications on the impacts of shale gas development. Their report shows that 96% of all papers published on health impacts of shale gas mining indicate potential risks or adverse health outcomes.

“Despite all of this scientific information which has been recorded and placed in front of the government in South Africa over four years, the Zuma Administration appears to be hell-bent on pursuing shale gas. The ANC may have the power to make decisions in this country but they are going to be compelled to work within the tenets of our laws and our Bill of Rights. Fracking is not a ‘done deal’ is South Africa just yet,” promised Deal.

Labour Party statement

Groningen gas field