Arctic protesters force Cairn to halt drilling

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 04, 2011 9:33 AM
Arctic protesters force Cairn to halt drilling

LONDON (Reuters) - British oil explorer Cairn Energy said on Saturday it had suspended drilling from a rig off the coast of Greenland after environmental protesters breached an exclusion zone.

The company, which plans to drill a total of four wells off Greenland this summer, said Greenpeace activists boarded its "Leiv Eiriksson" drilling vessel and entered a restricted area.

"In accordance with the strict Health and Safety practices employed in this drilling program and in order to ensure safe operating conditions, drilling has been suspended," Cairn said.

Two days ago, Cairn filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace to deter it from disrupting its exploration plans in the Arctic, one of the last untapped hydrocarbon basins in the world.

It is seeking fines of up to 2 million euros ($2.89 million) for every day that protesters stop it from drilling.

Environmentalist argue drilling in the Arctic carries unacceptable risks because harsh conditions and the remoteness of the region will make it difficult to tackle an offshore spill.

Greenpeace confirmed 18 activists had scaled Cairn's Arctil oil rig in the early hours of Saturday.

"Their mission - to find Cairn's elusive Oil Spill Response Plan," it said in a web posting. "Cairn is hiding it so we're going to the one place where there must be a copy of it!"

Cairn is leading a charge into offshore Greenland, which explorers believe could hold billions of barrels of oil.

Exxon Mobil, Husky Energy and others also plan to drill there.

(Reporting by Christina Fincher; editing by James Jukwey)

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