June 17, 2011 / 12:00 PM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 1-Greenpeace ups ante in Greenland battle with Cairn

3 Min Read

* Cairn says no delays to drilling

* Most recent in string of protests

* Campaigners fight opening of new oil province

(Adds detail)

By Tom Bergin

LONDON, June 17 (Reuters) - Greenpeace ignored a court injunction on Friday and boarded a Cairn Energy drilling rig offshore Greenland, raising the stakes in a battle over the development of the area as a major new oil-producing province.

Greenpeace said campaigners including the global head of the environmental group, Kumi Naidoo, boarded the rig, which is drilling just outside the Arctic circule, following similar occupations in recent weeks and last year.

Morten Nielsen, Greenland deputy police chief, said two activists were arrested and may now be expelled from the country.

Cairn said operations were not affected.

Little exploration has been conducted in Greenland due partly to the harsh environment, but high oil prices are pressing companies to drill in new areas. Explorers believe Greenland could have billions of barrels of oil under its seas.

But the BP oil spill last year has heightened concerns about the ability of the oil industry to deal with leaks in deep water, and accidents in icy waters are seen as especially challenging to tackle.

Greenpeace has called on Cairn and the Greenland government to publish the company's oil spill response plan, but Greenland has refused to do so. Spill response plans are publicly available in the United States and UK.

Last week Cairn secured an injunction against Greenpeace in a Dutch court, barring the environmental group from invading Cairn's facilities, with a possible penalty of 50,000 euros ($71,800) a day if operations were interrupted.

Cairn had sought a penalty of up to 2 million euros.

A spokeswoman said the company would now take "appropriate steps" in the Dutch courts but declined to say what these were.

Previous occupations have lasted for days, but since Cairn said there had been no impact on Friday, it seemed unlikely Greenpeace faces a large fine.

Nielsen said that activists have boarded the rig three times this year, and the Greenland police have so far indicted 20 persons and have expelled all of them from Greenland and Denmark.

"This is business as usual," Nielsen said.

Additional reporting by John Acher in Copenhagen; Editing by Will Waterman and Sophie Walker $1 = 0.696 Euros

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