ConocoPhillips Wavers on Controversial Amazon Drilling Plans Indigenous Leaders Tell Shareholder Meeting: No Drilling in Our Rainforest

Amazon Watch

For more information, contact:

Paul Paz y Miño, +1.510.281.9020 x302 or


Houston — Indigenous leaders gave a mixed reception to news that ConocoPhillips may be rethinking its controversial plans to drill on their ancestral territories in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.

Accompanied by the human rights and environmental group Amazon Watch, four leaders, three from Peru and one from Ecuador, attended ConocoPhillips’ annual general meeting for shareholders today to let company management and investors know that they would forcefully oppose any attempts by the Houston-based oil major to enter their lands.

ConocoPhillips CEO J.J. Mulva appeared to go out of his way to soothe the fears of the Amazonian delegation, telling them that Ecuador was now at the bottom of the company’s list of priorities and Peru was also moving in the same direction.

One leader from Ecuador, Patricia Gualinga, from the Kichwa community of Sarayaku, in the remote south of the country, told the meeting that she had traveled for several days to be at the meeting despite her “fear and nervousness” and demanded a final decision from ConocoPhillips after more than a year without news regarding the company’s oil concessions.

Mr. Mulva responded: “We won’t move forward unless it’s approved by the government as well as regional constituencies ... from a value or commercial point of view, because of location and cost, it is more difficult to see how value creation can come from future opportunities in blocks 23 and 24. The political situation has also changed dramatically in Ecuador.”

One Peruvian delegate, Andres Sandi, President of the indigenous Achuar federation FECONACO, told the meeting: “We won’t allow your entrance to our ancestral lands. We already have a long history with ... [the oil industry]. Their oil operations have left pollution, poverty and death.”

Mr. Mulva told him: “We wouldn’t go forward with any development unless we had concurrence and approval by the authorities. We always take into consideration the interests of the constituencies by which we operate in any regional area. Furthermore what I would say is due to value and commercial reasons, and also for political reasons, it is questionable to what extent operations and investment would really take place in Peru.”

ConocoPhillips currently owns the rights to seven oil concessions on the ancestral territories of various indigenous groups – in total three times the size of New Jersey – in the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Amazon, the heart of the most biodiverse region on the planet.

The plans threaten to destabilize the fragile rainforest ecosystem, which scientists say is a major force in stabilizing global climate. Oil drilling opens up these intact primary forests to a range of impacts including colonization and logging in addition to possible oil contamination. In one of the areas, Conoco’s operations would threaten vulnerable isolated indigenous peoples who have no immunity to outside diseases.

After the meeting, Ms. Gualinga said: “We were encouraged but still need to be vigilant. Mr. Mulva’s response tells us one thing: Our resistance has borne fruit. We’ll continue resisting until our communities can live without the threat of oil.”

But Mr. Sandi expressed his disappointment, saying: “Until we hear a concrete commitment from the company, we will continue to resist.” Apu Tomas Maynas, a spiritual elder of the Achuar people of northern Peru, added: “Although they are not giving us the answer we want to hear, it’s an advance here after traveling from so far to finally see face to face the eyes of the company that wants to drill on our territory.”

Also during the meeting, shareholders voted on a resolution, filed by a coalition of socially responsible investors led by the Brethren Benefit Trust, demanding that company management respect indigenous rights and provide a report detailing how ConocoPhillips obtains consent from indigenous communities affected by its operations. The resolution received 23 percent support, a relatively high figure for a resolution not favored by company management.

Share & Comment

Related Multimedia


Yes, I will donate to protect the Amazon!

"The work you do is vital, and I am happy to support it."
– Charlotte R. A.