Interviews with Indigenous leaders facilitated upon request
Lima, Peru – Following years of fierce opposition from the Achuar People of the Pastaza and the Wampis Nation of the northern Peruvian Amazon, the Santiago, Chile-based oil company GeoPark (NYSE:GPRK) announced it will be leaving the oil concession known as Block 64 (Morona Block) “due to extended force majeure.” GeoPark announced the departure in its 2nd quarter 2020 operational update and Petroperu, Peru’s state-owned oil company and GeoPark’s partner in Block 64, confirmed last night.
On reiterated occasions since GeoPark’s October 2014 announcement of its intention to initiate oil extraction within Block 64, the Achuar People of the Pastaza (FENAP) have stated their rejection of GeoPark. The Wampis Nation added their voice, denouncing GeoPark since August of 2018. Through joint advocacy campaigns, the Achuar and Wampis targeted Peruvian lawmakers, international investors, the U.S. government, and GeoPark CEO James Park himself.
Indigenous opposition forced GeoPark to withdraw its Environmental Impact Study in June 2019 following detailed criticisms from Indigenous federations and ally organizations. Legal actions include a lawsuit to annul Block 64 entirely for lack of consultation, currently before the Peruvian Constitutional Tribunal, and a penal case recently launched by the Wampis Nation given the risk posed by GeoPark workers entering their territory during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Reaction to GeoPark’s Departure
“Our international campaign titled Atsá Geoparkka (“No to GeoPark” in Wampis language) has resulted in mental relief and peace for the Wampis and the Achuar, at least for the time being. Human dignity and the respect for nature are essential for us Wampis,” said Shapiom Noningo, Technical Secretary for the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation.
“We want a healthy territory, free from contamination for our future generations. That’s why we don’t accept any oil exploitation in our territory. We are going to continue fighting until we have secured the nullification of [Block 64]. The Peruvian government never consulted us,” said Nelton Yankur, president of the Federation of Achuar Nationalities of Peru (FENAP).
Amazon Watch Commentary
“GeoPark’s departure from Block 64 is a testament to the vision and persistence of the Achuar people and Wampis Nation, both of which have a long history of successfully expelling oil companies from their ancestral territories. Let this be the final nail in Block 64’s coffin. In the era of climate change and COVID-19, oil operations and other destructive resource extraction, like mining and logging, should end in the Amazon,” said Andrew Miller, Advocacy Director at Amazon Watch and lead international campaigner for Peru. Amazon Watch has accompanied Indigenous resistance to Block 64 since 2003.
“U.S. investors BlackRock, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup have poured tens of millions of dollars into GeoPark and its plans to expand oil drilling in the Amazon in places like Block 64. GeoPark’s withdrawal from Block 64 is yet another clear message to investors that it is past time to divest from oil companies and re-invest in a truly sustainable future for the Amazon and the world,” said Moira Birss, Climate and Finance Director at Amazon Watch.
Achuar communities have resisted oil exploration in Block 64 since its creation in 1995. Local opposition and international campaigning resulted in the prior departures of companies such as ARCO, Occidental Petroleum, and Talisman.
The Achuar People of the Pastaza and the Wampis Nation have fought to keep their ancestral territories – covering a total of 5 million acres of primary Amazon rainforest – free from destructive oil and mining projects. Previously, the Wampis successfully stopped oil operations in Block 116 through legal action resulting in the cancellation of oil contracts in 2018.