LONDON : The British government called a halt Saturday to the controversial process of ''fracking'' due to fears it could trigger earthquakes in a surprise U-Turn just weeks before a general election.

Until now, Britain had hoped that fracking-banned in many countries, but booming in the United States could help secure its future energy independence.

But with just a few weeks to go before Britain goes to the polls - where environmental issues are expected to feature prominently - Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom announced a  ''moratorium'' at what is currently the UK's only operational shale gas well in Lancashire, northwest England.

''I have concluded that we should put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect,'' Leadsom said.

''It is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community.''

The U-turn follows a report by Britain's Oil and Gas Authority into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, a site operated by exploration and production company Cuadrilla. [AFP]


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