South Africa allows fracking for shale gas

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa says it will allow fracking to explore for shale gas in the semi-desert Karoo region known for its vast plains and tender lamb.

Cabinet ministers on Friday agreed to lift a year-old moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, based on a report by a technical task team. Shale gas is being touted as a viable alternative to expensive electricity in a country often short of power, and a boost for the economically depressed Karoo.

The ban had been imposed after Shell South Africa applied for exploration licenses.

Activists fear fracking could contaminate the water table and pollute the air with methane gas.

Collins Chabane, minister in the presidency, told a news conference Friday that licenses would be issued only once reserves are confirmed. Environmental impact studies could take two years.

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