Brazil’s state environmental protection agency IBAMA is expected to decide by early next year if the national oil company (NOC) Petrobras can drill near the mouth of the Amazon River, according to Rodrigo Agostinho, the regulator’s president, Reuters reported on November 22.

The area lies within Foz do Amazonas, one of the basins in Brazil’s Equatorial Margin, which Petrobras considers its most promising new frontier for oil and gas exploration.

The NOC’s push to drill in the region has been controversial, due to its biodiversity and proximity to the Amazon rainforest.

Earlier this year, Petrobras appealed against an earlier decision by IBAMA denying a licence to drill an exploration well in the basin, off the coast of the state of Amapa. The agency has no deadline to respond to the appeal, but Agostinho said that it is treating the matter as a priority.

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