Published 4 October 2018
Recent technological advancements and more advanced production techniques - especially in the field of hydraulic fracturing have led to the development of unconventional gas sources such as shale gas. Indeed, the exploitation of US shale gas has had such a significant economic impact on the global energy market that the International Energy Agency has referred to the rise of shale as the ‘shale storm' and the ‘second gas revolution.' With an estimated technical recovery amount of 390 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of shale gas found in the Karoo Basin in south-central South Africa, the South African government is looking to take advantage of hydraulic fracturing technology to develop its natural gas market. In this context, the establishment of an effective legislative and regulatory framework, which balances the economic benefits of shale gas exploitation with the need to also minimise or avoid adverse environmental impacts, is critical. This article explores the legislative and regulatory framework that currently governs the use of hydraulic fracturing technologies for shale gas exploitation in South Africa. It seeks to identify regulatory gaps and proposes the adoption of best practice legislative and regulatory developments to address those gaps. It further critically examines the impact of the South African High Court's decision in the case of John Douglas Stern NO and Others v Minister of Mineral Resources  Eastern Cape High Court 5762/2015 1 on the regulation of country's shale gas development.