40 Officers Injured in Algerian Anti-Fracking Resistance

Image Via Desert Boys

Image Via Desert Boys

Well into it’s second month, tens of thousands of people in Algeria have spawned a mass anti-fracking movement. These protests have involved peaceful blockades and marches with broad swaths of society. Algeria relies almost entirely on its oil, but shrinking reserves and dropping prices have threatened the economy.

The mass movement has been met by state repression, fueling the anger on the streets and escalating the protests. On Sunday, riots erupted in the district of In-Salah in which 40 officers were injured. The police headquarters, the police chief’s house, some police barracks, and a police truck were all set ablaze. “People went there in large numbers to demand the release of prisoners, but to no avail,” says “El Watan” . The protesters threw stones and other objects at police, who responded with beatings, tear gas and water cannons.  A dozen people were arrested.

The Algerian government relies on the exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons to offset the fall in oil prices, the country’s main source of income.According to  the International Energy Agency on shale gas, the country has huge recoverable reserves of shale gas, which ranks 4th in  world, behind the United States, China and Argentina . Exploration contracts were awarded to the American Halliburton, the Norwegian Statoil and French Total.

Image Via Desert Boys

Image Via Desert Boys

Here’s AFP with more:

Forty police officers were wounded Sunday in clashes with demonstrators opposed to shale gas exploration in the Algerian Sahara, the Interior Ministry announced.

“The town of In-Salah saw incidents involving public order, initiated by a group of young people protesting against shale gas operations in the region,” the ministry said in a statement.

It said the clashes “caused injuries to 40 police officers, including two who were seriously injured.”

Protesters set fire to the headquarters of In-Salah district and the residence of the district chief, as well as part of a police dormitory and a police truck.

The security forces managed to “take control of the situation and bring calm to the city,” the statement said.

Increased protests

Anti-shale gas demonstrations have increased in the cities of the Algerian Sahara since late December, when Algerian oil company Sonatrach announced it had successfully completed its first pilot drilling in the In-Salah region.

Sonatrach announced in early February that its exploratory drilling for shale gas using hydraulic fracturing would continue despite mounting hostility among people living nearby.

Continuous demonstrations were held for two months at In-Salah, the town closest to the drilling sites.

Algeria has seen massive investment in shale gas to compensate for declining oil revenues, but faces opposition from people living near the fields, concerned about the consequences on the environment.

According to international studies, Algeria has the fourth biggest recoverable reserves of shale gas globally, after the United States, China and Argentina.


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