From: Yale Environment 360 , SciDevNet, More from this Affiliate
Published August 31, 2011 04:36 PM

Fracking stirs controversy in South Africa

A controversial method for extracting natural gas — hydraulic fracturing or fracking — is stirring an environmental and property rights debate in South Africa. The controversy stems from concerns over the safety of the technology, which uses large amounts of clean water mixed with sand and various chemicals to crack the rocks underground to release the gas. Various reports from the United States — where the method has spread widely over the past decade — suggest that the method pollutes water supplies, potentially endangering local environments and people's health.


A group of energy companies — including Royal Dutch Shell and South Africa's SASOL — have leased rights to a huge shale field containing underground gas, promising economic development and energy security.

But their efforts are being contested by environmental groups, such as Greenpeace and Earthlife Africa, leading the South African government to place a moratorium on all further fracking permits.

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