Australia's Northern Territory ends ban on onshore gas fracking

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner announces the decision to start fracking within the NT

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner announces the decision to start fracking within the NT

The government of Australia's Northern Territory on Tuesday said it would allow gas extraction via fracking, ending a moratorium it imposed nearly two years ago amid concerns the drilling method could damage the environment.

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

Petroleum companies are expected to begin exploration fracking early next year.

"We have accepted the key finding of the report - that if all the recommendations are implemented the risk from fracking can be reduced to an acceptable level", Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said in a statement.

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.

"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.

"We look forward to working with government, pastoralists, Traditional Owners and the community to deliver the benefits that will come from responsibly developing the Territory's onshore natural gas resources".

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