Economic affairs minister Henk Kamp has given the green light to plans to drill for natural gas off the Wadden Sea island of Schiermonnikoog.
One of the test drills will take place within a protected nature reserve, 5.4 kilometres north of the tiny island.
The applications have been made by a company named Engie, which aims to run the first test drilling in the winter of 2017/2018. If successful, it plans a second test drilling the following year.
There have been two meetings with islanders about the plans and they are mainly concerned about the impact on tourism, Kamp said. However, if the tests are successful, the company will have to make a formal application for a permanent installation, he said.
Kamp said last year he is keen to encourage gas companies to extract more gas from under the North Sea to reduce Dutch dependence on Russia.
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