FILE PHOTO: Brazil’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles looks on during an interview with Reuters in Brasilia, Brazil September 6, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado
BRASILIA (Reuters) – Thick petroleum sludge that has been mysteriously washing up on beaches in Brazil is “very likely from Venezuela,” Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said on Wednesday, citing a report by state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA.
Salles told a congressional hearing that it appeared a foreign ship navigating near Brazil’s coast caused an oil spill “accidentally or not” that is “enormously difficult to contain.”
Venezuela’s information ministry and state oil company PDVSA did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
For more than a month, Brazilian authorities have been investigating oil of unclear origin washing up across hundreds of kilometers of beaches in nine northeastern states. On Monday, Salles said that more than 100 tonnes of oil had already been collected from the coastline since Sept. 2.
The comments from Salles on Wednesday came as he made the case for Brazil to institute better mechanisms to control oil spills, while defending efforts by environmental authorities, the military and other agencies to clean up and investigate the spill.
Reporting by Jake Spring in Brasilia; Additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Editing by Bernadette Baum; Editing by Chris Reese