The study area contains a rich layering of heritage resources stretching over some 4.6 billion years. Geological heritage sites and meteorites are the oldest aspects of heritage considered here, while palaeontological resources cover more than 300 million years of prehistory. The archaeological record spans some 2 million years and covers the Early, Middle and Late Stone Ages, as well as the Iron Age and historical period. The latter is responsible for the bulk of the built heritage that occurs, including the well-known Karoo vernacular architecture. Ensembles of individual cultural heritage resources relate to one another in various ways to produce urban and rural cultural landscapes throughout the study area. Living heritage binds the physical resources together and provides much of the character that is so highly valued by a wide community of South Africans.
Heritage resources in the study area are part of the National Estate and thus belong to the people of South Africa. While most are of relatively low heritage significance, there are numerous sites of high significance scattered across the region, including many that are formally declared. Archaeological and palaeontological resources are found throughout the study area but, because of weathering and erosion of the land surface, the context, preservation, and academic value of much of this material is limited, especially in the case of archaeology. However, important sites will occur in most areas. Built heritage resources add much cultural value to the study area and comprise the vast majority of declared sites. Cultural landscapes are both rural and urban, and specific areas generally have high significance because of the spatial relationship between multiple individual resources. The entire study area, however, has seen some degree of human modification and thus can be considered part of the regional cultural landscape. Living heritage is a key element of the National Estate in the Karoo because the last vestiges of a number of communities are still represented there.
Shale gas development (SGD) will impact on heritage resources no matter where development occurs in the study area, but the risk would vary markedly depending on the specific locations of wellpads, access roads and related infrastructure, and the amount of induced seismic activity that occurs. Heritage resources are distributed in variable densities throughout the study area but,
because of generally low survey coverage, the actual distribution of resources is poorly known. Small pockets of high coverage indicate that important resources of all types can occur anywhere in the landscape but that river valleys, rocky ridges and the undulating uplands tend to be more sensitive than the open plains for some categories of heritage, largely because of access to water. Seismic activity could affect heritage resources to varying degrees depending on their fragility, but built heritage is most at risk.
Due to the great variety of physical manifestations of the various types of heritage, the degree of risk relating to each is variable. Some aspects result in a low risk before mitigation, while others will result in high risk. Only one aspect produces a very high risk before mitigation, but this reduces to high with mitigation. The majority of post-mitigation risks are assessed to be of a low or very low level. Greater risks are generally an indication of those aspects of heritage that would experience residual impacts after mitigation.
When viewed from a heritage perspective, the limited SGD envisaged under Scenario 2 (Small Gas) and Scenario 3 (Big Gas) is feasible because the impacts would be confined to particular areas. However, the potential for extensive impacts from Scenario 1 (Exploration Only) is of concern because of the large area that might be impacted. Although it will not be possible to choose the exploration and/or development areas based on heritage resources, micro-siting of the infrastructure and the implementation of management and mitigation measures during all phases will help reduce the significance of the impacts. The most difficult aspects with which to deal in terms of mitigation are aspects relating to the cultural landscape and, along with minimising the amount of landscape scarring that occurs, effective closure phase rehabilitation will be key to the feasibility of the development.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShale Gas Development in the Central Karoo
Subtitle of host publicationA Scientific Assessment of the Opportunities and Risks
EditorsBob Scholes, Paul Lochner, Greg Schreiner, Luanita Snyman-Van der Walt, Megan de Jager
Place of PublicationStellenbosch
ISBN (Print)978-0-7988-5631-7
StatePublished - Nov 2016

ID: 10085553