Algeria's state news agency says hundreds of people are protesting in southern Algeria against efforts to exploit the country's vast shale gas reserves.

In the southern desert city of Tamanrasset, 1,000 miles (1,570 kilometers) south of Algiers, at least 400 people demonstrated Tuesday in front of the town hall, calling for drilling to be stopped to protect the environment and the region's groundwater.

In the oasis town of In Salah, 430 miles (690 kilometers) north of where the drilling is occurring, daily demonstrations have paralyzed the town, said the Algeria Press Service. It said a delegation of ministers was being sent to reassure residents about the safety of the gas project.

Algeria announced in May it would begin exploiting its shale gas reserves, estimated to be the third-largest globally.