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Ibiza victory over oil exploration

Cairn Energy withdraws from oil exploration near Ibiza

Following four years of solid campaigning, Cairn Energy has decided to withdraw from its controversial oil exploration permits off Ibiza in the Gulf of Valencia. The move follows some very fierce opposition from local residents, Ibiza business owners and celebrities that backed the "Ibiza Says No" campaign, as well as the work of various pressure and environmental groups. The campaign was also strongly supported by Ibiza Spotlight with many of our readers encouraged to sign petitions protesting against exploration.

Fears for severe negative environmental impact had been highlighted by the many groups protesting the proposed acoustic surveys used to assess the existence of oil. Opposition groups also highlighted the vast potential damage of drilling so deep for the oil, at 1200 metres, the same depth of the wells in the Gulf Of Mexico, which suffered a major oil leak. The release of vast amounts of toxic chemicals into the sea, a by-product of drilling at sea, would also threaten the pristine waters and marine life around Ibiza and Formentera.

A “triumph” for Ibiza

The Consell Insular, the local government of Ibiza, met this morning with campaign group Alianza Mar Blava to discuss Cairn Energy's abandonment of the area. Vicent Serra, President of the Consell praised the work of the campaign group and also the “union” of everyone that supported the campaign against oil exploration. He said in a statement that it was “a triumph for Ibiza for all the effort made to reject a project that threatened our way of life, our environment and our welfare.” He also took to Twitter saying, “between us all we did it”.

The group Alianza Mar Blava is made up of a consortium of 40 different public and private sector groups and was created especially to articulate the argument against oil exploration. Carlos Bravo, a spokesperson for the group feels that Cairn Energy had “thrown in the towel” because of the huge amount of public opposition. Commenting to Ibiza Spotlight he said “This is a great victory, not only for us but for all the Balearic Islands, for tourism, fishermen, sailors, farmers, environmental groups, and the local government.

High profile support

The campaign has had high profile backing from a range of celebrities including Kate Moss, Pete Tong, Sienna Miller, Paris Hilton and Carl Cox, some of whom took selfies with hand-made signs bearing “Ibiza Says No”. Last year ten thousand people marched in Ibiza and many thousands more signed petitions to protest against the exploration. The familiar badge saying no to oil exploration is still to be seen in public places, shops and restaurants across the island.

Serra added that “the goal had been accomplished, but didn't end there”. According to the Ibiza Preservation Fund's Facebook post, there are still two other oil companies, Spectrum Geo Ltd and Seabird Exploration that hold licences to explore for oil around all the Balearic islands and further north in the Gulf of Leon. Greenpeace issued a statement saying that the departure of Cairn Energy is “fantastic news for the environment and the socio-economic future of the Mediterranean,” but also warned that they would not "lower their guard” because of the other existing projects that threaten the area.

Cairn Energy has suggested that its departure has been to concentrate on more lucrative oil producing sites off Senegal, but many believe that it was avoiding additional negative publicity. According to Carlos Bravo an environmental impact assessment report from the Spanish environment Ministry, which has not been made public, would have cast the firm in a bad light. He believes that the company is “saying goodbye before the publication of a potentially negative report to avoid any more bad press.”

So, for now Ibiza and its surrounding seas are safe, though for that to continue, we ask that you give your continued support against oil exploration.

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WORDS | Julian Heathcote