Peru: oil company poised to enter uncontacted tribes’ territory

An Anglo-French oil company is poised to send more than 1,000 workers into a remote part of the Peruvian Amazon inhabited by uncontacted indigenous tribes. The company, Perenco, has just been given the go-ahead from the Peruvian government to drill for oil in the region. It is estimated to be the biggest oil discovery in Peru in 30 years.

Perenco denies the existence of uncontacted tribes in the area, despite confirmation of their existence by Peru’s government, Ecuador’s government, the company that used to work in the area (Barrett Resources), and Peru’s indigenous organizations. Ecuador’s government has even allocated $38,000 to protect the tribes, and Barrett admitted contact with them was “probable.”

Peru’s Amazonian indigenous organization, AIDESEP, is opposed to Perenco’s plans. It has appealed to Latin America’s top human rights body, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, urging it to help prevent Perenco working in the region.

Despite this, Perenco intends to construct 14 oil wells and transport between 1,400 and 1,680 workers into the area. Contact between them and uncontacted Indians could end in violent conflict or the decimation of the Indians by disease.

Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry, said, “Perenco seems determined both to push ahead with its mega-project, and also to deny that the uncontacted Indians even live there. It ought by now to realise that the seemingly isolated jungle it is operating in is actually the ancestral home of several Indian groups, who will very likely see its workers as invaders. Everyone else has acknowledged this, including Perenco’s predecessor.”

From Survival International, Jan. 7

See our last posts on Peru and the struggle for the Amazon.