BELEM, Brazil (Reuters) – Environmental demonstrators protested on Sunday against plans by Brazilian state-run oil company Petrobras to drill for oil at the mouth of the Amazon river.
“Oil-free Amazon,” said a banner held by the group of 50 protesters outside a convention center where heads of state of Amazon nations will meet this week to discuss joining efforts to protect the rainforest.
Petrobras has appealed against a decision by Brazil’s environmental protection agency, Ibama, to deny it permission to drill an exploratory well at the mouth of the Amazon, saying the request lacked an environmental assessment of the project.
“This type of exploration today, in 2023, does not contemplate us and only puts our lives and our way of life at risk,” said one protester, Luis Barbosa.
Petrobras has rights to explore a block 175 kilometers from Brazil’s northeastern coast in a deepwater area, south of where Suriname is exploring for oil and where foreign companies have discovered 11 billion barrels of recoverable oil in Guyana.
Speaking here on Saturday, Environment Minister Marina Silva said Ibama would study Petrobras’ new request to install a drilling rig off the coast of Amapá to explore for oil in the area where the Amazon river waters enter the Atlantic.
Ibama is not opposed to drilling at the mouth of the Amazon, in principle, and will study the technical and scientific reports impartially, Silva told a news conference.
“Ibama does not make things more difficult or easier. It reaches a technical opinion that must be obeyed,” said the minister, who has opposed the plan to drill at the mouth of the Amazon.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said this week his government has not decided whether to allow exploration there, and is in a “process of internal discussion.”
He said in a radio interview a decision would be made soon.
Lula said Guyana’s president would like Petrobras to explore for oil off-shore from his country.
(Reporting by Leonardo Benassatto; Editing by Leslie Adler)