The Midlands Conservancies Forum opposes, on ecological, health, social, and economic grounds, the use of hydrological fracturing techniques (Fracking) to recover natural shale gas. Specifically, the MCF believes that the risk of contamination of groundwater in an already water-stressed environment is simply unacceptable. Despite assurances from potential extractors that the technique is safe, evidence of failed safety measures and resultant contamination is increasingly common in areas where fracking has been approved.

we can't drink gas 

The Midlands of KwaZulu Natal is considered an area of interest for potential extraction of shale gas using Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking).   Two Technical Co-operation Permits (TCP) have been issued for KZN. The Sungu Sungu TCP includes areas between Giants Castle and Rosetta, as well as Estcourt, Bergville and along the edge of the Berg, Dannhauser and into the Free State. The Rhino Oil & Gas TCP includes areas around Richmond, Eston, Pietermaritzburg, Hilton, Howick, Karkloof, Balgowan, Dargle, Kranskop, Weenen and as far north as Vryheid. These concessions are in the areas where our rivers start. Rhino Oil & Gas has now initiated an Environmental Authorisation Process which must be undertaken prior to the commencement of prospecting activities.

The Rhino Oil & Gas exploration area

The Midlands Conservancies Forum (MCF) is located within the uMgungungdlovu District Municipality and within a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area.   In order to verify the amount of shale gas present in the Midlands and its viability as an energy source, prospecting will need to take place.  This activity has the potential to affect groundwater quality as it requires hydraulic fracturing techniques.  EAP consultation meetings have now been scheduled by Rhino Oil & Gas.

KZN fracking map  

Midlands Conservancies Forum (MCF) has been awarded a Global Green Grants Fund grant to raise awareness on fracking.  In collaboration with The Centre for Environmental Rights, MCF will develop and publish resources for use at schools, in communities and businesses to ensure people understand the potential impacts of fracking, especially in the KZN Midlands. This information will assist users and owners of land by providing them with insight to their legal rights and the requirements that the companies have to meet before they can begin prospecting. 

The MCF Fracking project intends to:




The Karoo basin was the site of an inland sea, where fossil deposition took place, predominantly during the Permian period.  The sea was deepest (and therefore has the thickest deposits) between Graaff Reinet and Somerset East, thinning out completely at the Mvoti River in the north. Over time these deposits formed what is now referred to as the Ecca geological group, comprising shale and sandstone formations. In KZN the shale is thin, which means that it is not the best place to start fracking, as the yields will be low.  Where shale and coal are found in same place in KZN, such as in the Vryheid area, the coal industry will take precedence over fracking.

In the KZN Midlands there are three main types ot of Ecca shale - Vryheid shale, Volksrust shale and Pietermaritzburg shale.  Estcourt shale is also evident from Mooi River northwards.

In the KZN Midlands there is also a lot of dolorite formation. Both sills (horizontal), and dykes (vertical), with the dykes in such numbers in the Berg and around Nottingham Road, that they are referred to as Dyke Swarms.  The dolorite dykes compartmentalise the shale, and once breached, gas can escape and polluted groundwater can rise. 

On the maps below, the Ecca Shale groups (Vryheid, Pietermaritzburg, Volksrust and Escourt) are marked Pv, Pp, Pvo and Pes respectively.   Shale is shown as the browny colour.  The pink colour is dolorite.  The Midlands has similar geology to that of the Karoo, and is intruded by dolerite – the dykes are shown as red lines on the map.  The presence of Dolorite makes drilling more difficult and less profitable.  The Berg area has very little shale and it is intersected by dolerite dykes.  Nottingham Road has Escourt shale and swarms of dolerite.

In the Karoo situation, it has been modelled that within two months, the polluted groundwater from dolerite intrusions can move 6 kms to affect a neighbouring borehole. This means that this KZN Midlands shale should not be mined or prospected to protect our ground- and surface-water.  Groundwater is recharged from the surface water and eventually flows to the surface naturally, “daylighting” into springs and seeps.  If our groundwater is contaminated, then not only will it affect those using water from boreholes, but also the streams and rivers into which it ultimately flows and from which most of us get our daily supplies. 



MCF and River Walk Blogposts


View and download our collection of anti-fracking graphics here.


The MCF is hoping to raise funds for a project to develop a baseline of water resources and water quality for users of non-municipal water in the uMgungungdlovu District Municipality. Through our Conservancy members we hope to be able to:

Currently, the information available is not comprehensive enough to inform decision-making.  This project will assist us all in this regard to ensure we safeguard this National Freshwater Priority Area and ultimately all of us who benefit from these life-support systems which provide us with consistent flows of good quality water.