Various oil and gas companies (such as Shell, Bundu, Falcon, Anglo) have applied for licenses to explore for shale gas in the Greater Karoo Basin (spanning from the Western Cape to KZN), with the intention of producing natural gas using the controversial method of horizontal hydraulic fracturing. Local farming communities (and South African citizens at large) are concerned about the possible water and air contamination, surface disruption, threats to existing economies (agriculture, tourism) and human and animal health. The carbon footprint of shale gas development and its contribution to climate change is also a concern. It is a contentious issue because shale gas is competing with viable alternatives for energy production, using renewable technologies such as solar and wind, which are possible in the area.
Following great public concern and opposition, the South African government declared a moratorium on exploration license applications in April 2011, with the purpose of appointing an interdisciplinary task team to conduct a feasibility study on the full effects and implications of fracking. No civil society groups were part of the task team. The moratorium was renewed for a further six months in September 2011 to allow the task team to complete its study.
After fruitless attempts to gain access to information on the task team, the EJO Treausure the Karoo Action Group sued Minister Shabangu in October 2011, with the North Gauteng High Court ruling in their favour in January 2012.
In September 2012, the Cabinet announced the lifting of the 17 months moratorium on exploration for gas in the Karoo. Over these months, the Shale Gas and Hydraulic Fracturing Task Team has been investigating the environmental and social concequences with members drawn from Pasa, the departments of Environmental Affairs, Science and Technology, Energy and Mineral Resources, the Council for Geoscience, SKA South Africa, Water Commission and Eskom. No members of civil society or agriculture groups were part of the Task Team. TKAG responded with a press conference and also a mobilisation of the Global Day against Fracking on September 22nd 2012.