Activists celebrate freeze on fracking licences

Activists protesting against fracking in the Karoo were celebrating on Thursday, after Cabinet announced a...

A member of the Treasure the Karoo Action Group participates in a protest at Parliament in Cape Town on Tuesday, 5 April 2011. Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht/SAPA

Activists protesting against fracking in the Karoo were celebrating on Thursday, after Cabinet announced a moratorium on

hydraulic fracturing

, or ’fracking’, licences.

The announcement, that was also endorsed by the Department of Minerals, will see a freeze on the controversial practice until a full investigation of its potential impact on the environment is concluded.

Cabinet spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said,

“This was a vote of confidence on the decision already taken by the Department of Mineral Resources to put a moratorium on all prospecting licences in the Karoo."

Fracking is a technique used for extracting shale gas from deep underground by pumping a pressurised mixture of water, sand and chemicals down drill holes.

A number of organisations have been protesting against Shell’s plans and the Treasure the Karoo Action Group recently called on government to impose an immediate halt on the energy giant’s application for exploration rights.

The group’s Jonathan Deal said, “We’re absolutely ecstatic and the phone lines are going absolutely berserk,” he said. “All of the NGO’s have had a hand in this. Everybody needs to be complimented for this.”

The Department of Minerals will now lead a multi-disciplinary team to fully research the practice.

Meanwhile,

the Treasure the Karoo Action Group also said a recent natural gas mining incident in the United States proves fracking is not environmentally sound.

Meanwhile, Shell South Africa Chairperson Bonang Mohale said,

Thousands of litres of fracking fluid spilled in Pennsylvania following an accident at a natural gas well.

Bonang added that he would like

“We actually welcome this and we fully support it because remember, we are committed to supporting the development of… regulatory standards, especially for this process called hydraulic fracturing.”

to know whether the moratorium included existing licences.