Oil-drilling plans face stiff resistance in Spain’s Ibiza

MADRID- Plans to drill for oil off the Spanish holiday island of Ibiza have met with fierce opposition from locals who fear the white sand beaches and marine life will be damaged.

“Everyone is against it here,” said Carlos Bravo of the Blue Sea Alliance, an umbrella organization of 50 groups including environmentalists, hoteliers and unions, seeking to halt oil exploration off Ibiza and Formentera, a neighbouring island that is only accessible by boat.

More than 10,000 people, some carrying signs saying “The Mediterranean is not for sale”, marched in February through the streets of the capital Ibiza Town against the planned exploration.

Their campaign has the backing of celebrities like US socialite Paris Hilton and British model Kate Moss who are regular visitors to Ibiza, one of Europe’s top tourist destinations which is famous for its nightclubs and turquoise waters.

“Ibiza is in danger. It is not a myth, not a metaphor and not an exaggeration. The island is facing an ecological disaster,” Hilton wrote on her Instagram page earlier this year.

Moss has signed a petition urging the Spanish government not to allow the oil prospecting to go ahead, and posted a photo of herself holding a sign that read “Ibiza Says No” to her 32.8 million Twitter followers.

The project dates back to 2010 when British firm Cairn Energy obtained four exploration licenses for the waters around the Balearic Islands, one of which is Ibiza.

The company now plans to use seismic imaging, which bounces sound waves off the ocean floor, to map pockets of underground oil in the region before it applies for government permits to start drilling.

Cairn Energy said it will carry out the seismic imaging over 2,400 square kilometers (930 square miles), an area roughly the size of Luxembourg, 53 kilometers (32 miles) from Ibiza.

“The company is currently at the very early stages of assessing whether to explore for hydrocarbons,” it said in a statement, before adding that the seismic imaging will take place “at a time when any impact will be at a minimum, most likely in the winter months”.