The government may award its first shale gas exploration licences by the end of September, after environmental objections delayed the process, a senior government official said on Monday. The five licence applications under review are for exploration in the semi-arid Karoo basin. Environmentalists criticised plans to work in the sparsely populated region, known for its rugged scenery and home to rare species such as the mountain zebra and riverine rabbit. Royal Dutch Shell, Falcon Oil and Gas and Bundu Gas & Oil are among five firms whose applications were being reviewed by the regulator, acting Petroleum Agency SA (PASA) CE Lindiwe Mekwe said. PASA would make recommendations to Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane to decide on the licence awards. "We anticipate that the minister will be in a position to make a determination during the second or third quarter," Mekwe said. "If the decision is made this year the exploration rights will be valid for a period of three years, expl...

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