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Contama, Loreto, Peru – A pipeline rupture in Maple Energy’s Oil Block 31-E, 75 miles north of the city of Pucallpa, spilled crude oil into the Mashiria River, the primary source of drinking water and key fishing ground for the neighboring indigenous Shipibo community of Nuevo Sucre, this past Sunday. The local operator for the Dublin incorporated transnational has employed 32 community members to clean up the spill with rags and buckets without training, protective gear, or information about the health effects of petroleum.
On Sunday morning, July 10, at approximately 9am, children bathing on the banks of the Mashiria River saw crude floating down the river. Representatives of Maple made no announcement of the spill or its effects on water quality to community members.
“We are very concerned about the health of the workers cleaning the spill, our children who play and drink from the Mashiria daily, and all the members of our community that survive on this water,” said Raúl Tuesta, head of the community of Nuevo Sucre. “No one has been able to give us an answer as to why Maple directed these men to work directly in the petroleum with bare hands, legs, and feet. We are very worried about what impacts this will have on their health.”
This is the 6th spill in just over two years from Maple Energy’s oil operations in blocks 31-B and 31-E in the Loreto region of Peru. Maple, a U.K.-traded company registered in Dublin with corporate leadership predominantly from the United States, expanded its operations in the Amazon in 2007 with $40 million US dollars of private sector financing from the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC). In April 2010, affected communities filed a complaint to the IFC against Maple for human rights abuses, widespread contamination, and forcing community members to clean up toxic spills without protective equipment.
“This is yet another example of the social and environmental cost of oil drilling in the Amazon,” said Leila Salazar-Lopez, Program Director at Amazon Watch. “The outgoing Garcia administration has promoted a massive expansion of oil drilling in the Peruvian Amazon while the government clearly lacks the regulatory capacity to protect the environment and the rights of indigenous peoples.”
The local indigenous organization FECONBU together with the regional office of AIDESEP, ORAU, are demanding that cleanup workers get protective gear, safe working conditions, and just compensation. They also demand that Maple provide the community of Nuevo Sucre with adequate humanitarian assistance including potable water, food, and immediate medical assistance for hydrocarbon exposure.
Leaders emphasize the need for a thorough cleanup and remediation of the spill. “We have lived in harmony with our forests, waters and rivers for hundreds of years. We want to continue living without contamination, and this is our right as an indigenous community,” says Lizardo Cauper Pezo, president of FECONBU.