Most of the recent debates on fracking have focused on the Karoo region, with much less scrutiny on similar plans to dig for gas and oil next to some of SA’s most valuable farming areas and mountain "water factories". Rhino Resource Partners, a Texas-based company, has been pushing for approval to search for gas in a 4.4-million-hectare chunk of land in KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and the Eastern Cape. A significant part of the search area — initially encompassing about 19,000 properties — includes farm land adjacent to mountain catchment areas. Late in 2017, despite opposition from affected parties, Rhino got the go-ahead to begin searching for a wide variety of petroleum resources, including oil, gas, condensate, coal bed methane, helium and biogenic gas in a reduced exploration area covering about 2.4-million hectares (slightly larger than Kruger National Park). The exploration venture is led by Dallas attorney and businessman Patrick James Mulligan, who boasts about closing severa...

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