RIO DE JANEIRO – A score of Greenpeace activists gathered on Thursday outside French oil major Total’s Rio de Janeiro headquarters to protest the company’s plans to explore for crude in the mouth of the Amazon River.
The environmental watchdog said that activity could severely damage a unique, recently discovered coral reef.
During the demonstration in downtown Rio de Janeiro, the protesters unfurled a large black banner that read: “TOTAL: Stay away from the Amazon coral reef.”
“We’ve come here outside Total’s headquarters to demand once again that the company abandon its plans to explore for oil in the Amazon River mouth basin, near the coral reef, which is a unique biome that was recently revealed to humanity and would be threatened in the case of an oil spill,” Tiago Almeida, a Greenpeace Brazil energy specialist, told EFE.
The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) in August rejected the latest version of Total’s environmental study and gave it an ultimatum, noting that the report contained numerous errors and inconsistencies, Almeida recalled.
The activist noted that Total’s own study shows there is a 30 percent risk that the coral reef could be affected in the event of a spill and a 72 percent chance, in a worst-case scenario, that oil could reach the coast of Trinidad and Tobago and other countries.
“We’re talking about a highly sensitive region from a socio-environmental point of view, about a region that also is home to traditional, indigenous, quilombo communities, fishermen who depend on the ocean, the coast and the health of the seas to survive,” the Greenpeace representative said.
Almeida also pointed to the difficulties in exploring for oil in the Amazon region, saying there had already been 95 exploration attempts in the area and that none had found viable petroleum or gas reserves.
The controversial oil exploration project in the mouth of the Amazon is being led by Total in partnership with London-based BP and Brazil’s Petrobras and endangers a coral reef discovered in 2016 just off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean
Total denies that oil exploration work would endanger the coral reef and says the well in question is located 28 kilometers (17 miles) from the closest reef element.