Australia's Northern Territory lifts fracking ban

Australia's Northern Territory lifts fracking ban

Australia's Northern Territory has lifted a almost two-year-old moratorium on fracking for shale gas but will implement strict laws to protect the environment and indigenous regions, the territorial government said on Tuesday.

The decision will open up more than half of the territory's land mass to the controversial practice.

"The risks from fracking can be reduced to acceptable levels", NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters in the Territory's capital, Darwin.

The Northern Territory (NT), a 1.4 million sq km (540,000 sq miles) expanse extending from the centre of Australia to its northern coastline, had banned hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in September, 2016 and commissioned a study of the environmental, social and economic risks of the extraction process.

Gunner said the government had accepted the inquiry's advice about no-go zones.

"Forty-nine per cent of the Territory will be "frack-free", including in national parks, conservation areas, Indigenous protected areas, towns, residential and strategic assets, and areas of high cultural, environmental or tourism value", he said.

Origin Energy, which has welcomed the lifting of the fracking ban, said that it will soon resume exploration work in the Beetaloo Basin shale gas field in NT. The company had previously estimated the onshore gas field to hold 6.6 trillion cubic feet in contingent reserves.