Pretoria, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 26 April 2011 – The South Africa’s Cabinet has endorsed the Department of Mineral Resources’ decision to declare a moratorium on natural-gas drilling in the Karoo region, thereby halting plans by Royal Dutch Shell plc, Europe’s largest oil company.
The DMR is to lead an investigation into the implications of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) that will include assessing the environmental effects, government spokesman Jimmy Manyi told reporters here.
“Cabinet has made it very clear that a clean environment, together with all the ecological aspects, will not be compromised,” Manyi said. “The cabinet is aware of the urgency that is required in this respect,” he added.
Royal Dutch Shell applied for permission to drill about 24 wells in an area of about 90,000 sq km. The company faces opposition in the sheep- and game-farming region, an arid stretch across northwest South Africa, from the Karoo Action Group, which fears environmental damage.
Shell would seek clarity from the minerals department on the full implications of the moratorium, the company said in an e-mailed statement.
“Shell will support local research efforts into hydraulic fracturing, as this will provide clarity and an improved understanding of the technology,” the company said. “Shell is fully committed to support the development of best-in-class regulatory standards for hydraulic fracturing in South Africa.”