ConocoPhillips Withdraws from Controversial Oil Block 39 in Peru
Amazon Watch hails decision for isolated peoples' rights at Annual General Meeting
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | May 11, 2011
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Houston, Texas – ConocoPhillips CEO James Mulva announced today at its Annual General Meeting of shareholders that the company has withdrawn from its controversial co-venture with Repsol-YPF in Oil Block 39 of the remote northern Peruvian Amazon. Oil drilling in Block 39 and neighboring Block 67 has come under fire from human rights groups due to the presence of indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation in this region, and the risk of forced displacement and deadly epidemics.
"Oil operations in regions inhabited by isolated indigenous peoples presents an unavoidable and unacceptable risk to their continued survival," said Mitch Anderson, Corporate Campaigns Director at Amazon Watch. "It is crucial now that remaining operators in the region, Perenco and Repsol, follow ConocoPhillips' lead and withdraw from these controversial oil blocks."
This affected region of the northern Peruvian Amazon is one of the most biodiverse in the world and is home to at least two uncontacted indigenous tribes. The extreme vulnerability of peoples living in voluntary isolation due to their lack of immunity to outside diseases has been well documented and they face the very real threat of extinction if they are contacted.
The Peruvian government has disregarded the extensive anthropological evidence supporting the existence of uncontacted tribes in this region and lead operator of Block 39, Repsol-YPF, continues seismic exploration while Anglo-French company Perenco pushes ahead with production in Block 67.
"There are certain areas of the world where the risks to human life and the environment posed by oil drilling and exploration is too great," said Gregor MacLennan, Amazon Watch's Peru Program Coordinator. "Oil operations in these areas risk destroying some of the world's most vulnerable people and irreparably damaging some of the most biodiverse places left on this planet. Governments and the oil industry have the responsibility to establish no-go zones and measures to prevent infringements on the rights of indigenous peoples."
ConocoPhillips held a 45% interest in Block 39 in a co-venture with Repsol-YPF, the block operator and majority owner. ConocoPhillips did not reveal the buyer of their stake in Block 39 at the shareholder meeting. Block 67 sits within Block 39 and is owned and operated by Perenco. Both oil blocks are on the Peru-Ecuador border between the Napo and Tigre rivers and border a reserve for isolated indigenous peoples across the border in Ecuador.
The Peruvian government has already earmarked over 75% of the Peruvian Amazon for oil and gas activities and plans to auction an additional 22 oil blocks in the coming months.