BP Canada Energy Group ulc has been granted operational approval for the first of seven planned deepwater exploration wells offshore of Nova Scotia.

The Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) awarded the permit as of last Saturday (April 21), following through on hotly contested approval of the entire drilling program in February by the federal environment department.

Protest continues by some Mi’kmaq natives of the Atlantic coast province, even after lengthy government and community scrutiny produced a book-length review including strict conditions.

"The environmental assessment process for this project benefited from meaningful consultation and input from Indigenous groups and the public, as well as technical advice from federal experts across government,” the ruling said.

Like the environment department, the CNSOPB emphasized that the drilling would be thoroughly monitored and supervised from start to finish.

The operational approval said BP has contracted the Seadrill West Aquarius as a rig suitable for the deepwater location 330 kilometers (205 miles) offshore of the Nova Scotia capital, Halifax.

BP has not yet set a date to start drilling or disclosed a cost forecast, but it said the work would begin soon. The CNSOPB predicted the first well would take 105 days by a team including a dedicated standby vessel, two supply ships, helicopters and a shore base in Halifax.

The national environmental approval allows a four-year drilling program on a 14,000-square kilometer (5,600-square-mile) spread of offshore leases granted to BP and Hess Canada in 2012. The rights expire in 2022.

Opponents warn that the Scotian Shelf drilling zone -- up to 370 kilometers (220 miles) east of Halifax in water 100-3,000 meters (327-9,810 feet) deep -- is three times as far offshore and twice as deep as the Gulf of Mexico location of BP’s infamous 2010 Macondo blowout.

But both the Liberal federal and Nova Scotia governments support the drilling. Provincial Premier Stephen McNeil stated confidence during a weekend national party convention that the exploration program would be a responsibly supervised and safely conducted boost to the regional economy.