FRACKING : Call for Public Comments

Pretoria - Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has issued a notice of intention to declare fracking a controlled activity of the National Water Act.

The notice, which has been published in the government gazette for public comment, includes the exploration for and/or production of onshore unconventional oil gas resources and any activities incidental thereto, including but not limited to, hydraulic fracturing.

Briefing the media on Tuesday, Molewa explained that fracking becomes a water use matter, thus requiring a water use licence.

"Only matters concerning water resources will be of consideration when licences are issued, including but not limited to the possible impact of substances and chemicals on the ground water resource," Molewa explained.

Molewa, who emphasised that the key priority of the department was to protect the environment and water resources, said the department would take every precaution to ensure that the possible impact of fracking on water resources was carefully managed and minimised.

The notice of intention follows an inter-departmental task team established in 2011 for the augmentation of the regulatory framework and monitoring of hydraulic fracturing in the Karoo.

An interdepartmental Monitoring Committee has also been established for unconventional oil and gas exploration and production, of which the department is a member.

The monitoring committee is tasked with reviewing the existing regulatory framework for the regulation of fracking and to develop the necessary regulations and guidelines on the methodologies of hydraulic fracturing.

It will also develop guidelines to ensure that the impact of exploration and production of shale gas resources are prevented managed or mitigated.

Molewa said they expected the scope of the committee's work will consider regulatory measures that must apply throughout the country, address hydraulic fracturing and be wide enough to encompass future technologies, provide mitigation of likely impacts on acquifers (groundwater resource) by exploration and production drilling and allow for a well-planned approach.

"The measures must also include oil and gas from shale and coal bed methane and water use associated with hydraulic fracturing."

The public and all interested parties will have 60 days from the date of gazetting to make comments. Various platforms, including a postal and an e-mail address, have already been created for the public comments process.

The full text of the notice is available on the department's website on