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Moratorium on shale gas exploration lifted

Cabinet now knows more about fracking and its implications for the Karoo.

Presidency Minister Collins Chabane, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Transport Minister S'bu Ndebele and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Catherine Rice/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Cabinet on Friday approved the lifting of a moratorium on shale gas exploration in the Karoo.

Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane addressed a post-cabinet media briefing after a Lekgotla held this week.

Chabane said South Africa is an energy-scarce country and the possibilities of new resources cannot be ignored.

"Cabinet approved the report on the shale gas exploration, submitted by the minister of mineral resources, which was emanating from the task team which was convened in 2011."

Chabane said the moratorium was in place due to a lack of information about fracking, but they know more now.

"Cabinet endorsed the recommendations of the report on the lifting of the moratorium."

Sasol decided to postpone its shale gas exploration in the Karoo following an outcry from environmentalists.

Shale gas extraction uses a combination of water, sand and chemicals to blast into hard rock to release gas locked inside.

Meanwhile, a mining lobby group expressed concern over the Cabinet's decision to lift the ban.

The mining method involves a controversial hydraulic fracturing technique, called "fracking".

The Treasure the Karoo Action Group is strongly opposed to the practice, saying it will harm the environment and damage the pristine region.

The group's Jonathan Deal said, "We think that minister Susan Shabangu wanted to send a message to the international mining community that South Africa is open to them. In our view, South Africa has made a hasty and ill-informed decision."

At the same time, little was said about the Marikana tragedy, where 44 people lost their lives during an illegal strike.

The ministry only said the work of the ministerial commission is on track.