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Sousa Cintra’s suspect well shut down by environment ministry

After weeks of inexplicable goings on in the wilds of Rogil, police and authorities acting for the environment ministry have shut down suspect well drilling on land belonging to Algarve oil baron Sousa Cintra.

The belief – now being investigated by the Attorney General’s office – is that far from drilling for water for an agricultural project, teams on site have been actually prospecting for oil.

And by no coincidence today, the former environment minister who signed over prospecting licences to Sousa Cintra’s company Portfuel in the last days of the previous government is being called to parliament to give a full and frank explanation as to why he decided to do so.

According to various reports on national media, Portfuel did not comply with ‘the minimum requirements’ of a oil company to be awarded such a contract. Indeed, Lusa’s Sérgio Luísa described it recently as an “empty shell” that does not have any employees.

Covering the enforced shutdown on operations yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, RTP news explained the ‘coincidences’ that have led to the widely held belief that Sousa Cintra has been illicitly digging for oil.

Fonseca Furos, the drilling company ostensibly ‘digging 500 metres for water’ is the same company that elsewhere in the country has been involved in oil prospection, said Rosa Veloso of RTP – while the contracting company, Domus Verde, shares the same address at Portfuel and is owned by Sousa Cintra.

Interviewing various locals whose own water supplies – powered by boreholes around 100 metres deep – have been adversely affected by Fonseca Furos’ digging over the last few months, RTP discovered that a geologist on site was actually employed by Portfuel and had been previously involved in oil drilling in Brazil.

João Carvalho however refused to be drawn on the “ultimate use” of the on-site wells.

“My work here is to identify the rock that the we’re going through”, he told RTP. “Pure and simple”.

“The question everyone is asking”, RTP stressed, “is if this site really is to be used for agriculture, why do they have to drill so low for water” – particularly as water was discovered months ago at levels much closer to the surface, and since then strong chemical odours and ‘seas of foam’ have been identified coming from the well-heads.

With Sousa Cintra’s 40 years licence to drill for oil now clearly at risk of being rescinded (click here), the news channel claimed Portfuel lawyer André Figueira “could not believe” Wednesday’s news.

“We will just have to see what happens”, he said.

Meantime, anti-oil campaigners who have relentlessly fought to bring this issue into the public eye are celebrating.

Said the Facebook page of ASMAA, the Lagos-based association that began the anti-oil campaign in the Algarve: “A very big thank you to all the team members in Aljezur and Vila do Bispo for all your work”.

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