At the silent protest against oil and gas exploration in the Algarve, the Secretary of State for Environment, Dr Carlos Martins (pictured) was handed a letter inviting him to visit Aljezur.
The March 24th demonstration was held as the Secretary of State opened a new sewage treatment plant at Vila do Bispo. There were over 150 demonstrators, adults and children, from Lagos, Odeceixe, Aljezur and the Vila do Bispo areas.
Among the protestors was a group of German tourists who had come to enjoy the natural beauty of the region, and who joined the demonstrators in a gesture of support against oil and gas exploration in the Algarve region.
Carlos Martins received representatives from the anti-fracking and anti-hydrocarbon groups from Aljezur, Vila do Bispo and from pressure group ASMAA (Algarve Surf and Marine Activities Association) and accepted a letter which invited him to visit areas where several boreholes have been sunk, causing alarm to the local population.
The Secretary of State for the Environment is to receive representatives in early April, in order to open dialogue and discuss the risks of oil and gas exploration to the Algarve.
He assured representatives of the various organisations of his intention personally to visit the work taking place and to address residents’ concerns.
Since 15 November 2015, the Fonseca Furos company has been drilling what it claims is a borehole for water. Locals say the land where drilling is taking place is owned by the businessman José Sousa Cintra who also holds the concession for the onshore gas and oil exploration blocks that cover most of the Algarve region.
In February this year, Aljezur council wrote to the Environmental Agency requesting clarification on the drilling. The agency replied that Domus Verde Imobilarios Empreendimentos had been given a license to drill for water to irrigate 6.8ha of agricultural land.
Fonseca Furos is one of the companies used by Mohave Oil and Gas in Alcobaça where boreholes were drilled to a depth of 3,240 metres and samples showed that gas existed. This work later was put on hold.
Recently, the movement of machinery at thr Rogil site has been constant as drilling work resumed in the two boreholes that already had been sunk.
The work area now has been screened off and locals say the smell of chemicals has become intense, the water from the boreholes has bubbled and a black seepage has spread across nearby terrain.
According to information given by the owners of the adjacent land, Sr. Sousa Cintra has made several attempts to purchase the land where he is drilling.
At the opening of a new photovoltaic plant in Tavira, the Secretary of State again was met by protestors. A representative from Tavira in Transition tried to hand the politician an anti-oil and gas letter which was rejected by one of his entourage.
On March 19th, residents in Rogil called anti-oil organisation ASMAA to say that the drilling operation was still in progress, that the site had been fenced off and that white foam could be seen all over the site and was running into the small stream at the bottom of the fenced area.
The strong smell of chemicals had irritated their noses, eyes and throats.
ASMAAS’s Laurinda Seabra said that “we find it extremely strange that a water borehole drilling operation should last as long as this one appears to be taking, secondly, the contracting company Fonseca Furos' website shows it oil drilling credentials."
There are allegations by local residents that Domus Verde Ventures Imobilarios belongs to Mr Sousa Cintra and that he may now be the owner of the land where drilling operations are taking place.
Seabra added, “Maybe it’s all just a coincidence, maybe it’s just all pure speculation ... or maybe not, and the situation is a lot more serious and requires more investigation.
“Whichever way you look at it, one thing is for sure - we all need to be alert and to keep our eyes open to any drilling operations happening around our residential and farming areas. Yes, maybe it is just drilling for water, but it could also mean that exploration drilling for fossil fuels is also taking place, or an operation to collect core samples.
“In the meanwhile we are watching what is happening there with interest ...”
With thanks from ASMAA