Australian Shell approval came under fire

13:41, July 08, 2011      

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Australian federal government's approval for Shell to explore for gas 50 kilometers from Western Australia's Nigaloo Reef came under fire by environmentalists on Friday.

More than 6,000 square kilometers of coastal Ningaloo were listed as a world heritage by the United Nations late last month, and environmentalists claim the drilling plans could threaten the protected area.

According to World Wildlife Fund spokesman Paul Gamblin, the heritage listing should have stopped Shell gaining approval for drilling.

"We are very concerned that the Australian Government is even allowing the oil and gas sector to operate so close to the world heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef, and it really beggars belief that they aren't requiring a full environmental estimate of Shell's latest drilling proposal," he told Australia Associated Press on Friday.

Europe's largest oil company, Shell said in a statement that its operation will be focused on gas, not oil, and will be located away from the reef itself.

Shell added that the company is mindful of the biodiversity and heritage values of the region, and it will work with regulators and stakeholders to show how it will operate the well without any environmental impacts.

Shell said in March it expected to drill the well off the northwest coast as early as September.

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