Anti-oil campaigners are in shock this week over news that an oil exploration ship aim to sink a test well off the Aljezur coast from July 1.
The news has come like a bolt from the blue for groups who thought the first development on the horizon was coming in the shape of test drilling off the south coast by Partex in October.
“We have set up a special petition to run during the time available for public consultation, from May 31 to June 22”, Laurinda Seabra leading campaigner for ASMAA, the Algarve Surf and Marine Activities Association, told us.
It is in English and Portuguese and can be found on http://peticaopublica.com/pview.aspx?pi=PT81291 for people with Portuguese fiscal numbers, otherwise on Change.org (click here).
Hopes are that the petition will then have to be ‘assessed’ by the DGRM (mineral resources authority), delaying the July 1 drilling date.
A demo outside DGRM’s Lisbon HQ is also being planned for June 22, said Seabra, who suddenly sounds incredibly tired.
“It has been one heck of a year”, she agreed. “We trying to counter developments everywhere: onshore, offshore. One minute it is Portfuel on land, then it is the Partex issue in October, now it is Galp/ Eni off Aljezur”.
At the same time, ASMAA’s base is literally stuffed-full of box-loads of completed petitions’ forms.
Seabra quipped that she is not sure her apartment floor can stand the weight.
“There must be 1000 kilos of papers”, she told us.
But more seriously, the relentless drive by the authorities to push forwards with exploration plans suggests the time given over to public consultation could simply be cosmetic.
“It looks like they are going through the motions of it, without any real commitment to listening”, said Seabra.
For now, this latest threat involves the Santola concession, 46.5 km off the coast of Aljezur, with drilling due to go to depths of 1.070 metres.
The exercise using ENI’s ship SAIPEM 12000 is “expected to last 46 days”, says an ‘edital’ (public notice) from DGRM.
The document advises anyone wishing further information to get in touch with DGRM via post to Avenida Brasilia, 1449-030, Lisbon, or by telephone 213 025 193.
But as Seabra explains, a lot of people simply do not know how to object to a threat that is now just over a month away.
As readers will already be aware, the issue of oil exploration both onshore and offshore throughout the Algarve is being fought by the region’s mayors through the courts.
The 16 mayors have reiterated their “vehement opposition” to oil exploration, saying it threatens the Algarve’s No 1 industry – tourism, and has no place in a world post COP21.