GeoPark Fomenting Social Conflicts in Peru's Amazon

Report details how oil companies are sowing discord among indigenous communities in Block 64 (Morona Block)

Amazon Watch

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Rania Batrice at +1.510.394.2041 or rania@amazonwatch.org


Achuar protest in the community of Wisum, May 2018. Photo credit: Amazon Watch

Washington, DC – A detailed new report published by the non-governmental organization Center for Public Policy and Human Rights (Equidad Perú) identifies the oil company GeoPark as responsible for dangerous divide-and-conquer strategies in the Peruvian Amazon. The company is also facing related criticisms of downplaying environmental concerns in their Environmental Impact Study and entering into a close relationship with Peru's security forces, even using a military encampment as their base of operations.

The report, titled Block 64, A World of Conflicts – Risk of violation of the rights of Achuar and Wampis indigenous peoples by oil companies GeoPark and PetroPerú, explains that "Peru's oil concession called Block 64 has a long history of conflicts created by the Peruvian government's attempts to impose an oil extraction and transportation project, which the Achuar and Wampis indigenous peoples have consistently rejected over more than two decades." (English executive summary available here, full Spanish report available here)

Holding interests in Block 64 since 2014, GeoPark has publicly stated their intention to initiate oil production by the end 2019. Quarterly investor reports to date have been upbeat, entirely failing to recognize the growing indigenous resistance and delays around the project.

Specific tactics attributed to GeoPark and consortium partner PetroPeru over recent months include:

  • Supporting "phantom" indigenous federations to offer the appearance that GeoPark has the "social license" to operate;
  • Providing legal services to facilitate the expansion of community land titles into contested areas claimed by neighboring indigenous communities; and
  • Contracting a consultancy that specializes in "creation of new leadership structures within social groups that are aligned with the interests of the client," i.e. manipulation to impose company-friendly indigenous leaders.

These tactics are a repeat of those implemented by prior companies in Block 64, including Talisman Energy from Canada, which eventually withdrew in 2013 after facing years of international protest and a lawsuit related to social conflicts which almost erupted in physical violence between indigenous communities.

The report also outlines a series of serious concerns with the Environmental Impact Study (EIS), submitted by GeoPark in July of 2018 and currently under consideration of Peru's National Service for Environmental Certification (SENACE). Primarily, the report criticizes the scant attention given to the dangerous nature of the proposed route for transporting the crude on boats down the Morona River to Pumping Station #4, which is found along the Northern Peruvian Oil Pipeline.

The report raises a troubling concern about GeoPark's use of the Sargento Puño military encampment as its base of operations and storage site along the Morona River. This appears to be an unconstitutional arrangement, one currently being challenged by indigenous federations.

The Peruvian human rights organization International Institute for Law and Society (IIDS) has also heavily criticized the EIS. Key concerns they submitted to SENACE include the exclusion of clearly impacted communities from the "area of influence," the omission of economic, social, and cultural impacts of the project, and the omission of past environmental impacts of previous companies. As a result of these and other critical submissions, SENACE issued a series of comments to the EIS in mid-February, mandating a response by GeoPark in 30 working days.

Context

Beyond Block 64, oil extraction in the northern Peruvian Amazon is an extremely controversial and risky proposition. The Northern Peruvian Pipeline, through which oil from Block 64 would be transported, has experienced dozens of spills and shut-downs over recent years. Those problems are not improving, and oil company Frontera Energy recently announced it is "rethinking Peru due to pipeline problems".

PetroPeru, a 25% minority partner in Block 64 and operator of the pipeline, has security contracts with the Peruvian National Police. The relationships between the police and extractive companies "allow the violation of human rights and break the principles of international law" according to a report recently issued by EarthRights International. Given rising social conflicts in the region, there is a concern that state repression will be used against peacefully-protesting indigenous communities, as has been the case elsewhere in Peru when communities have stood up to abusive extractive industries.

GeoPark is a Chile-based company with operations around South America. Key institutional investors include the Norwegian Bank, the International Finance Corporation, and JPMorgan Chase, the last of which is under significant pressure to end its financing of fossil fuels. GeoPark has been qualified to bid on 8 blocks in the Ecuadorian Amazon, were indigenous nationalities have repeatedly expressed their opposition to extractive industries within their ancestral territories.

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