An oil and gas company has won approval to drill an exploratory oil well in Cape Breton's Lake Ainslie area, despite complaints from opponents who say this will lead to fracking.

The Nova Scotia government announced Tuesday it will allow PetroWorth Resources Inc. to drill a vertical well up to 1,500 metres deep.

It is not giving the company permission for hydraulic fracturing — known as fracking — a process where water and chemicals are pumped into the ground.

Opponents worry this would contaminate the groundwater and harm the environment, wildlife and people in the area.

The province says PetroWorth has a plan to deal with wastewater, noise and air quality.

PetroWorth has not ruled out fracking.