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MURMANSK, May 26. /ITAR-TASS/. Environmental activists from Greenpeace have blocked plans by Norwegian state-owned oil company Statoil to drill the world’s northernmost oil well, the activists' organization told ITAR-TASS on Monday.
The halt was called as Transocean operators' Spitsbergen rig made its way towards the site in the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea. Work is now on hold until a Greenpeace complaint is investigated, said the protest group's press officer, Maria Favorskaya.
Campaigners accuse Statoil of violating the law that bans drilling in ice and near an ice boundary. Norway's Polar Institute had shown the boundary was located just 25 kilometres from Statoil’s licensed area, said Favorskaya.
Oil production threatens Medvezhiy Island wildlife sanctuary, where the coast could be fouled by an oil spill reaching it from the exploration site within days, Greenpeace says.
This sanctuary of the Svalbard archipelago has been created to preserve a colony of birds and rare sea mammals, one of the largest refuges in the northern hemisphere.
Activists in the new campaign include some of those arrested by the Russian authorities in a protest against drilling by the Prirazlomnaya oil rig in Russian waters several months ago.
This time, aboard the vessel Esperanza, they have already visited Medvezhiy Island. They are now heading for the planned drilling site to ensure the oil company does not start work until the investigation is completed.