Peru reconsiders controversial Amazon oil project

An Anglo-French oil company hoping to drill for oil on uncontacted tribes’ land in the Peruvian Amazon may be forced to abandon the project after the government threatened to withdraw investment in it. The project depends on the construction of a billion-dollar pipeline to transport the oil from the remote Amazon to the Peruvian coast. Perupetro, the state oil company, is currently “reevaluating” investing in the project after the recent fall in global oil prices. “Everything seems to indicate that [the pipeline] has to be reevaluated,” said Peru’s Energy Minister Pedro Sanchez at a news conference.

The jungle where Perenco hopes to drill is the ancestral home of at least two of the world’s last uncontacted tribes. The company’s plans have already met with outright condemnation from local indigenous organizations, a lawsuit, and an appeal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to recommend banning the project.

The find is believed to be the biggest oil discovery in Peru in thirty years. President Alan García, who claimed that uncontacted tribes have been “invented” by environmentalists opposed to oil exploration, had expressed hopes it would turn Peru from a net oil importer to a net exporter.

Survival International director Stephen Corry said, “We have been lobbying Perenco to abandon this project and this latest announcement from the Peruvian government might just force them to do so. If Perenco work in the area, it could lead to more than half of the uncontacted Indians being wiped out.” (Survival International, Jan. 26)

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