Brazil's environment protection agency Ibama is expected to decide by early next year if state-run oil company Petrobras PETR4.SA can drill near the mouth of the Amazon River, Ibama's president Rodrigo Agostinho said on Wednesday.
The area is part of Brazil's Equatorial Margin, which Petrobras considers its most promising new frontier for oil and gas exploration. The decision to drill in the region was controversial, due to its biodiversity and proximity to the Amazon rainforest.
Earlier this year Petrobras appealed a decision by Ibama denying a license to drill an exploratory well in the region, near the coast of the state of Amapa. The agency has no deadline to judge the appeal, but Agostinho said that it is treating the matter as a priority.
The Equatorial Margin is a roughly 2,200-km (1,370-mile) stretch of deepwater and ultra-deepwater assets along Brazil's northern and northeastern coast.
The area Petrobras is looking to drill is located south of where Suriname is exploring for oil and close to Guyana, where Exxon Mobil has discovered major oil reserves.
(Reuters - Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Fabio TeixeiraEditing by Mark Potter)