Farmers building a mighty war chest for a court battle to stop fracking - CNBC Africa

Farmers building a mighty war chest for a court battle to stop fracking


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Lawyer Derek Light representing farmers

An estimated 485 trillion cubic feet of shale gas could be buried 4,5km below the Karoo, according to Econometrix, South Africa’s largest independent macro-economic consulting firm.

The only way to get at it is so-called invasive mining underground, which has been used for no more than 15 years.

Farmers in the Karoo say this will destroy their livelihood. Johann Rupert, Africa’s second richest entrepreneur, who now lives in retirement on a farm in the Karoo is one of them.  Rupert made billions selling luxury consumer goods for Richemont and under his South African-based company Remgro.

He has been shelling-out hundreds of thousands of dollars says Derek Light, a small-town lawyer from Graaff-Reinet defending his birthplace, in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, in the courts.    

“The bulk of the cost we have incurred so far has gone into research, to equip ourselves and to be informed. We have hired some of the best scientists to understand each step of the exploration, so that one can understand every aspect of the process. We won’t go to court unless absolutely necessary. It’s not first prize to us,” he says.

Thousands of farmers across the Karoo are following the billionaire’s example. Fifty five-year-old Dickie Ogilvie, who farms mohair near Aberdeen, has pledged R3 for every hectare on his 14,000 hectare farm.

“Some guys have given a lump sum payment. Most of the other moneys are per hectare basis, from 20c to 50c up to R2-R3 depending on how strongly they feel about fracking. It might sound like a lot of money, but it’s actually nothing. If I lose my property, at the end of the day it’s not money at all, we’ve lost everything,” says Ogilvie.

Stories By Jay Caboz, Forbes Africa

More in Forbes Africa October Issue