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Greenpeace activists arrested on Greenland oil rig

Two Greenpeace activists who occupied a Cairn Energy oil rig off Greenland's coast this week have been arrested and removed from the rig.
A Greenpeace activist scales the underside of Cairn Energy's Leiv Eiriksson oil rig on Sunday. Two activists who were suspended under the rig in a survival pod were arrested late Wednesday night. (Greenpeace)

Two Greenpeace activists who occupied a Cairn Energy oil rig off Greenland's coast this week have been arrested and removed from the rig.

The environmental group says the activists, who had spent four days in a survival pod suspended from the underside of the 53,000-tonne Leiv Eiriksson drilling rig, were arrested late Wednesday night.

The activists were then removed from the rig, located about 180 kilometres off the western coast of Greenland, and taken to Nuuk, where they await charges.

The pair had occupied the rig since early Sunday morning to protest Cairn Energy's exploratory offshore oil drilling program in the Arctic.

Other Greenpeace campaigners continue to watch the Cairn Energy rig from the ship Esperanza, which remains outside a 500-metre exclusion zone that a Danish navy warship  imposed around the drill site.

"The campaign is not over because our activists have been arrested," Ben Ayliffe, a Greenpeace member aboard the Esperanza, told CBC News Thursday.

"We are determined to do all we can to stop this new Arctic oil rush. And, you know, there are other strings to our bow."

Four wells to be drilled

Scottish-based Cairn Energy, which drilled three exploration wells off the coast of Greenland last summer, plans to drill four exploration wells this year in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait.

Greenpeace has been criticizing the company, which is the only firm that is drilling in the area, for not taking extra precautions needed to avoid environmental disasters like the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In a statement, Cairn Energy said the protesters were removed from the Leiv Eiriksson to ensure the safety of people working on the rig.

Ayliffe would not say what Greenpeace plans to do next to disrupt Cairn Energy's drilling plans.

However, Ayliffe said Cairn Energy is seeking a court injunction that would force Greenpeace ships out of the drilling area.

Greenpeace also alleges that Cairn Energy wants hefty fines imposed for every further day the activists succeed in halting drilling. A Dutch court is expected to hear the case on Monday, according to the group.

A Cairn Energy spokesperson would not confirm Greenpeace's claims about court action.

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