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Dept. to investigate shale gas mining

The Science Dept. will conduct research into the pros and cons of shale gas mining in the Karoo.

Equipment used for the extraction of natural gas is viewed at a hydraulic fracturing site on June 19, 2012 in South Montrose, Pennsylvania. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - The Science and Technology Department will conduct research into the pros and cons of shale gas mining in the Karoo.

This will determine if future mining operations could impact on preparations for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.

Earlier in 2012, government lifted a moratorium on shale gas mining exploration in the region.

The research will be carried out by the South African Astronomical Observatory with the help of the Science and Technology Department.

The research will gauge whether future mining operations, in the ecologically fragile Karoo, could impact negatively on the SKA project.

Activist Jonathan Deal says if mining goes ahead, the impact will extend beyond the SKA.

"We don't believe that the economics have been proven. There are lots of downsides."

The Mineral Resources Department insists when it decided to life the moratorium in September, the SKA programme was considered.

Many environmentalists have made it clear that they are against fracking in the Karoo.