Peru pledges new Amazon oil auctions —despite indigenous protests

Energy investments in Peru, which is working to become an exporter of oil and natural gas, are expected to hit $1.5 billion in both 2009 and 2010 despite the recent wave of protests, PeruPetro president Daniel Saba told Reuters. After an initial delay, PeruPetro plans to auction more than a dozen lots this year. Energy outlays last year totaled some $1.48 billion. “In spite of [oil] prices having fallen…no investor has left Peru,” said Saba. “All of them continue working and what’s more, there are new investors arriving, and wanting to participate in the market.”

Saba said the auction, which was set for July, should happen in “October or November—definitely this year.” The auction will be Peru’s first since last year, when several top government officials were forced to step down after accusations of taking kickbacks. Saba said a number of industry majors have expressed interest in this year’s sale. “I can’t name names, but in the group are companies without a current presence in Peru— and that are big,” he said.

Among energy firms that have operations in Peru right now are Spain’s Repsol, the French Perenco, Argentina’s Pluspetrol, Brazil’s Petrobras, US-based Maple Energy and Peru’s own state energy company, PetroPeru.

Saba dismissed the concerns of indigenous communities in rainforest that oppose the oil development: “When they oppose [a project], it’s because they do not have correct information, so it’s logical for them to be scared. We must inform them well.”

Peru’s government is currently considering the creation of five new reserves to protect the several thousand people who rights groups say live in voluntary isolation. But Saba said organizations that push for the protection of so-called “uncontacted tribes” often cite decades-old studies. “So far as we know now, there is just one place—in Madre de Dios, near the border with Brazil—where there might be” an uncontacted tribe, he said. (Reuters, Aug. 5)

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

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