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The government has been sent back to the drawing board over regulations intended to manage shale-gas exploration. Preliminary exploration for shale gas in the Karoo, in the hope of finding quantities of gas that would fundamentally alter the South African economy, has begun. Three companies applied for exploration permits: Bundu Gas & Oil, Falcon Oil & Gas and Shell Exploration. The permits allow seismic and exploratory drilling only. If exploration turns up viable shale-gas resources, it would be followed by hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a controversial extraction method that can pollute the environment and particularly scarce water resources if it is not properly controlled. To enable shale-gas exploration, the Department of Mineral Resources published its petroleum regulations two years ago. They deal extensively with the steps needed to prevent environmental damage. In a judgment in the Eastern Cape High Court on Tuesday, Judge Gerald Bloem ruled that the regulations were in...

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