Greenland's government today blasted Greenpeace after activists boarded a drilling rig operating for UK explorer Cairn in the Disko West area and halted work, branding the action illegal.
The Greenlandic government’s statement echoed earlier comments made by the Danish Navy.
“This is clearly an illegal act, ignoring the rules of democracy. At the same time it is a severe breach of security conditions, meant to protect the lives of people and the environment,” Greenland premier Kuupik Kleist said in a statement.
"The ongoing drilling has therefore stopped and once again Greenpeace has succeeded in stopping the possibilities for Greenland in the effort to secure the economical basis for living conditions for people."
The Greenpeace action is designed to disrupt Cairn's $420 million Disko West drilling campaign.
Greenpeace said that four activists made their way to semi-submersible drilling rig Stena Don from the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza via inflatable speedboats.
Cairn halted operations after the activists evaded Danish Navy commandos to scale the rig.
Greenpeace slipped past the Danish Navy vessel Vaedderen and two Greenland Police ships before scaling the inside of the rig earlier this morning.
They are now occupying tents which are hanging from the side of the semisub.
The Stena Don is drilling the Alpha-1 probe, on the Sigguk Block, which lies about 175 kilometres west of Disko Island, in Baffin Bay.
Sources told Upstream work on the drillship Stena Forth, which is drilling the T8-1 well, also in the Sigguk Block, has also stopped and the drillship has moved from location.
Last week, Cairn announced a gas find at T8.
Cairn said it would let the government take care of the situation but declined to comment on its operations.
"As always, safety remains our number one priority. The actions taken by Greenpeace are primarily a matter for the Greenlandic authorities and Cairn will work with these authorities as they seek to deal with the matter in the most appropriate way," a Cairn spokesman said
Kleist said the protest challenged Greenland's right to determine how it uses its resources.
"The Cabinet (Naalakkersuisut) regards Greenpeace's action as very serious and an illegal attack on the country's constitutional rights," Kleist said.
"It is worrying that Greenpeace, in their hunt for media exposure, violate security rules made to protect human lives and the environment."
Meanwhile, the Danish Navy said it would not attempt to forcibly remove the four activists occupying the rig.
"Greenpeace has carried out an illegal operation, because there is a safety zone of 500 metres around the drilling rig," Michael Hjorth, the head of operations at the Gronnedal Naval Station, in south-west Greenland, told Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende.
"We have also sent two inflatable speedboats to the rig to rescue the Greenpeace people if something happens and they fall into the water. The water's very cold - between two and five degrees," he said.