JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's advertising watchdog criticized oil giant Shell on Wednesday for newspaper claims about its use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to explore for gas in the Karoo, a semi-desert wilderness.
The Advertising Standards Authority described the adverts as "unsubstantiated" and "misleading" and ordered them to be withdrawn.
The Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG), which believes fracking will damage the Karoo's delicate ecosystem, had complained that Shell had underplayed the possible impact of the process.
"It is critical that with an issue so important to South Africa as fracking that the public is not misled, as Shell clearly intended in its advertising," TKAG's Jonathan Deal said in a statement.
"We should not be misled by the emotional calls and manufactured facts of such adverts."
Karoo farmers and conservationists are concerned about the possible impact of fracking, in which drillers blast millions of liters of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into underground rock to create cracks for gas and oil to escape.
Bonang Mohale, head of Shell in South Africa, said he was disappointed by the ruling and denied trying to mislead the public.
"The advert was a technical statement of our opinions and understanding of the implications of shale gas exploration in South Africa," he said.