Fracking to be declared a controlled activity

The announcement was made by Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

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

CAPE TOWN - Fracking will be declared a controlled activity under the National Water Act, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa revealed on Tuesday.

Fracking involves injecting liquid at high pressure into rocks to cause a fracture, allowing the release of natural gas.

Molewa says notice of her intention to do this was gazetted last Wednesday.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies recently announced that government wanted shale gas exploration to start as soon as possible.

Molewa says the exploration and exploitation of any land-based, unconventional oil or gas resources will be covered.

She says this means companies wanting to explore shale gas deposits under the Karoo will first have to get a water-use licence.

"I have now taken a decision to issue a notice of intention to declare fracking a controlled activity in terms of Section 38 of the National Water Act."

Molewa says, "Our key priority is protecting the environment and our water resources."

Some environmental activists have expressed concern over fracking.

They believe it will lead to pollution and destroy scarce water resources.