“Why can’t we make this project an ecological project for the world… if we talk to each other,” he told a conference on shale gas in Johannesburg.
“If we have appropriate consultation with the people living there… then tourism and farming will continue and the Karoo brand will be protected.
“But we need to talk and to listen, but that is difficult now because people are getting into their trenches,” he said.
Shell had submitted an environmental management plan, following the exploration application it made in December last year, to drill 24 boreholes over the next three years in test areas stretching across about 90 000 km² of the Karoo.
However, in April, Cabinet endorsed the department of mineral resources’ moratorium on licences in the Karoo, saying more research was needed before hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – can go ahead.
Fracturing, also known as fracking, involves pumping a high pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the shale bed to break apart underground shale rock and extract the gas.
Proposals have been made by Shell, Falcon Oil and Bundu Oil and Gas to explore shale gas deposits in the Karoo.
Farmers, community members and landowners in the Karoo, including landowner, Dutch princess Irene, as well as billionaire businessperson Johann Rupert, were opposed to fracking.
Chief among their concerns is the large quantities of water fracking requires, as water is scarce in the Karoo, and could potentially be contaminated.
Eggink told the conference Shell would abide by the country’s regulations on water.
“We have made it very clear we will not compete with the people of the Karoo for their water means,” he said.
It was not yet clear from where Shell planned to access the required water.
“We have to bring water in some shape and form, either through deeper water levels or rivers outside the area… or truck it in or through trains… or we could bring in sea water.” Shell was also exploring ways to frack without using water, he added.