See email correspondence below from Martin Coetzee, the Advocate who is legally representing some of the Blombos Conservancy members.
He writes as follows:
The purpose of this communication is to provide you with some feedback of the meeting with Advasol/Golder on Friday, 25 June 2010.
I was accompanied by Jean Te Water Naude, Johan Bothma (Agri Western Cape) and Charl de Villiers (representing AWC)
Advasol was represented by two directors (Francois Roos and Gerrit van Wyk). Erika du Preez represented Golder.
The meeting lasted for almost two hours and quite frankly in my opinion presented the objectors with no more information apart from the very little already known.
As I was instructed it was recorded that this meeting was not to be regarded as a public participation meeting and as far as we were concerned its purpose was to obtain more information to enable the objectors to submit an informed response. It was also made clear that commenting on the generalised EMP would serve absolutely no purpose unless adequate information on the application and the applicant is provided.
It was very evident that Advasol is adamant in proceeding with this application. We were informed that a lot of funds have been utilised to obtain the latest state of the art equipment to carry out what is referred to as the non-invasive exploration. Advasol was however not prepared to divulge any more information on the exploration work program, the geology data available or results of desk top analysis, since it was “commercially sensitive”.
It was explained that Advasol has access to enough funds since they are a subsidiary of Ice Finance (Pty) Ltd (apparently a South African Investment Company). Advasol’s shareholders at this stage are , a company Crystal Exploration (Pty) Ltd, BL Masethla and the Trustees of the Mamphore Trust. On the question where then does Ice Finance fit in as holding company, it was deducted from the reply that it could possibly be the holding company of Crystal Exploration. Advasol was however not prepared to provide any information about financial ability.
It was also clear that Advasol/Golder would prefer to have one on one discussions with land owners to explain the process and what the impact of it all would be on the properties concerned. It certainly was my impression that the Stilbaai area could well be the epicentre of the exploration process.
Advasol had a problem with the instructions by PASA that an EMP for the drilling process be submitted, for the simple reason that they are not in a position to present any concrete information on the drilling without first having completed the non-invasive process.
Their attention was drawn to the fact that the application process could be technically deficient and that all legal requirements were not met. Their response was that they would then obtain a legal opinion in this regard. If there were deficiencies it will be rectified – even if they have to withdraw the application and immediately resubmit. Advasol was however of the opinion that if they do this, someone else would seize the opportunity and they certainly would choose not to lose the initiative gained thus far.
It was admitted by Advasol that they do not have exploration or production experience – they however have extensive experience and expertise in large scale commercial and residential land development projects. The envisaged exploration and research are new areas of enterprise in which they will be assisted by relevant experts, third party consultants including Golder’s appointed geological advisers, Geo-Consult International (Pty) Ltd. At this stage they are looking at a possible contractual relationship with, amongst others, leading specialist drilling contractors, such as Black Viper Energy Service Limited, a Texas based firm.
Regarding a request for more specific information on the directly affected properties it was merely stated that a wide area of potential interest has been identified for the purposes of the application in order to safeguard the commercially sensitivity and confidentiality of this project.
Their motivation for this exploration is that hydrocarbons/natural gases represent an alternative and less environmentally detrimental source of potential energy to power the country’s growing electrical needs than the current dependence on coal-based energy from Eskom. The potential footprint of any production facility that may be developed should the exploration initiatives prove commercially viable and technically feasible would be significantly smaller and less intrusive.
Apart from these mission statements no further and specific information can be divulged because of it being commercially sensitive and confidential.
Confronted with the biodiversity and conservancy nature of the area, their response was that they would refrain from any exploration in declared and registered conservancy areas or nature reserves. As far as they were concerned neither the Blombosch or Duiwehoks conservancy areas were registered or enjoy legislative protection. It is regarded as initiatives by land owners.
As far as I am concerned the meeting did not assist in any way in getting substantial information. Advasol however said that they would consider providing some documents requested, but will block out what they regard as commercially sensitive information.
Based upon the meeting it therefore is my opinion that PASA be approached and certain points emphasised –
Ø It simply is not possible to comment on an application et al that we are not privy to have had insight to. It certainly would be detracting from all affected parties’ rights if they were not afforded a reasonable opportunity to consider and comment on matters that affect their rights;
Ø A “deadline” of 2 July 2010 is to say the least, ridiculous. PASA should indicate a reasonable time to comment after being provided with the information requested
Ø The consultation process was and is a farce – it would appear that it is being rushed and only superficial and inadequate information is provided.
I will be drafting a communication in this regard to PASA – in my opinion PASA’s role is not to accommodate the applicant, but a public service where the rights of the public and especially the affected land owners should be upheld at all times.
I also have had extensive discussions with Dr De Ville Wincker, an expert petroleum exploration geologist who has worked for thirty years in this field and who has written extensively on the hydrocarbon geology in especially the Riversdale area – his concern is that the Applicant provides no geological basis for their application and as far as he is concerned, documented data indicates that the possibility of finding natural gases in the areas applied for is negligent.
It is trusted that the above would provide some further insight into what all land owners are being confronted with.
Will keep you posted on further developments.