Fears Peru's Gas Expansion will Generate Conflict in UNESCO World Heritage Site

Date of publication: 
3 May 2013

A department within Peru’s Environment Ministry is concerned that the expansion of the country’s biggest gas project in the southeast Peruvian Amazon could generate conflict between indigenous peoples living there.

SERNANP, the state institution responsible for ‘protected natural areas’ in Peru, has stated that the expansion of the gas project could generate conflict between indigenous peoples in “voluntary isolation” in the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti Reserve (KNNR) and other indigenous peoples living in neighboring Manu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

SERNANP expressed its concern in a “technical opinion” on an environmental impact assessment (EIA), submitted to Peru’s Energy Ministry, in which the expansion plans are detailed. The expansion, by a consortium of companies led by Pluspetrol and including Hunt Oil, is due to take place in a site called Lot 88 in the Camisea region in the Amazon rainforest in the southeast of the country. Almost three-quarters of this concession is superimposed over the KNNR, which acts as an official buffer zone to Manu, immediately to its east, and was established in 1990 to protect indigenous peoples in what Peru’s law and some anthropologists now call “voluntary isolation” and “initial contact.”

Gas has been pumped from Lot 88 since August 2004. There are already wells and two pipelines in the western part of the KNNR, and in April 2012, Pluspetrol obtained permission from the Energy Ministry to drill three new wells 10 kms (6 miles) deeper into the reserve at a location called San Martin Este.

Now Pluspetrol is hoping to obtain permission for a further 18 wells, a 10-km pipeline, and 2D and 3D seismic testing, which will involve thousands of underground explosions.

According to the EIA submitted to the Energy Ministry, this will mean operating in the most northern, eastern and southern parts of Lot 88 and, therefore, even deeper into the KNNR.

“Knowing that the nomadic populations frequently move between the reserve and the Manu river basin, as described in the EIA, it is believed that, as a result of the expansion, the migration of these people to Manu will be frequent and lead to new settlements being established in the area,” SERNANP informed Peru’s Energy Ministry on February 6. “This will mean using the natural resources in the region and could generate conflict with the indigenous communities in the Manu River basin inside the Manu National Park.”

This statement was just one of 68 observations made by SERNANP on the EIA, all of which Pluspetrol is expected to respond to.

It was made following Pluspetrol’s admission in the EIA that the areas where it is planning to expand will include the migration routes used by nomadic populations.

“[Pluspetrol should] indicate what will be the contingency plan or strategy to avoid this migration and/or the settlement of these nomadic populations in the interior of Manu National Park,” SERNANP states.

SERNANP’s concern echoes that of indigenous organizations in Peru who recently lobbied the United Nations special rapporteur on indigenous peoples, James Anaya, about the expansion.

“The development of further oil and gas exploitation through the expansion of activities both within Lot 88 and any neighboring areas threatens irreparable harm to all the reserve’s inhabitants by increasing, inter alia, the likelihood of undesired contact, the transmission of potentially lethal diseases and the displacement of the reserve’s indigenous people as they seek refuge in neighbouring areas and triggering subsequent conflict with neighbouring groups,” states an August 9, 2012, letter signed by national organization AIDESEP, together with regional affiliates COMARU, FENAMAD, ORAU and ORPIO.

Klaus Rummenhoeller, an anthropologist and expert on Peru’s isolated peoples working at Peruvian nongovernmental organization (NGO) APECO, says, “The large majority of Manu National Park is inhabited by indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation and initial contact.”

Those in “voluntary isolation” have no regular contact with outsiders and are particularly vulnerable due to their lack of immunological defenses.

“But the problem is not that isolated peoples will migrate into Manu,” Rummenhoeller says. “They’re already doing that, going into the park and then out again, according to their economic cycles. What could happen is that some groups affected by an oil or gas company will move into areas where there are already other groups, like the Matsigenka communities in the park or settlements of groups in initial contact. That is what could bring conflict.”

Lelis Rivera, from CEDIA, a Peruvian NGO, calls expansion in Lot 88 a “huge danger for Manu.”

“They don’t have anywhere else to go,” says Rivera, who played a key role in the creation of the KNNR in 1990. “If the government continues with these policies, Manu’s inexorable destiny is to be converted into a refuge for uncontacted people.”

According to UNESCO, which declared Manu National Park a World Heritage Site in 1987, the biodiversity in Manu “exceeds that of any other place on Earth.”

“The State Party has been consulted,” says Nuria Sanz, from UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in Paris, when asked about its response to SERNANP’s statement. “UNESCO awaits the official answer from Peruvian Authorities.”

Glenn Shepard, an American anthropologist who has worked with the Matsigenka in Manu for many years, is surprised by SERNANP’s response.

“It seems kind of odd to ask Pluspetrol to clarify ‘strategies to avoid migration or relocation of nomadic populations’ since that is basically impossible,” he says. “Contingency plans hardly do anything to reduce or avoid the risk of contact. The social and environmental impacts, both direct and indirect, in the Camisea area are cascading with almost no real control. I don’t see how anyone can look at Camisea and say, ‘See how well we’re doing things here, why not expand the project?’ ‘’

Ivan Lanegra, Peru’s vice-minister for inter-culturality, defends Pluspetrol’s plans, saying they do not constitute expansion and claiming that any operations authorized in Lot 88 will meet Peru’s obligations to indigenous peoples and the environment.

“If it is not possible to satisfy those obligations,” he says, “then the Energy Ministry can’t authorize such operations to go ahead.”

According to the Energy Ministry, Pluspetrol has now responded to SERNANP’s “technical opinion,” and the response was sent to SERNANP on April 11, although it has not been made publicly available.

Enzo Chaparro Morales, the head of Pluspetrol Peru’s communications team, confirmed that his company has issued a response to SERNANP, but played down any concerns and, by e-mail, quoted from parts of it.

“It should be made clear that the migration of the nomadic populations that we are referring to are migrations in which they are always coming and going and form part of their extensive use of the territory that is characteristic of the way they live,” Chaparro Morales states. “The use of paths or tracks from one basin to another usually takes place in the dry season when these populations migrate temporarily in search of turtles’ eggs and other resources that are more abundant in Manu.”

Indigenous organizations in Peru are vigorously opposed to the expansion of operations in Camisea. Following the letter to the UN’s special rapporteur in August 2012 by AIDESEP, COMARU, FENAMAD, ORAU and ORPIO, four of the same organizations announced they would file a lawsuit against the government and company responsible, and then, in late January 2013, three of them, together with NGO Forest Peoples Programme, appealed to the UN’s Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

CERD responded on March 1, urging Peru’s government to immediately suspend the expansion plans.

CERD’s request was discussed on April 16 in Lima during a hearing of the Peruvian congress’s commission on the environment, ecology and Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian peoples, but Energy Minister Jorge Merino Tafur made it clear he wants expansion to go ahead.

The Camisea project is fundamental to Peru’s development, he said, claiming that it would respect the rights of the indigenous peoples in the reserve.

The head of Manu National Park, Jose Carlos Nieto, and the head of SERNANP, Pedro Gamboa Moquillaza, did not comment.


Peru deputy minister resigns as Humala rolls back indigenous law

Deputy Culture Minister Ivan Lanegra was upset the government decided to exclude Quechua-speaking communities from being covered by Peru’s prior consultation law.

Reuters – http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/04/peru-mining-indigenous-idUSL2N...

6 May 2013

LIMA (Reuters) – A key Peruvian official tasked with implementing a law to give indigenous groups more rights has resigned to protest efforts by President Ollanta Humala’s cabinet to roll back the law to protect mining investments.

Deputy Culture Minister Ivan Lanegra, who confirmed his resignation on Saturday on Twitter, was upset the government decided to exclude Quechua-speaking communities in the mineral-rich Andes from being covered by Peru’s “prior consultation law,” a number of sources told Reuters.

That law gives indigenous communities the right to shape natural resource developments that affect them, but does not allow them to veto projects.

Still, mining companies in one of the world’s top minerals exporters were worried the law would slow new projects by making community approvals more difficult.

Reuters reported in an exclusive on May 1 that Mines and Energy Minister Jorge Merino had persuaded Humala to keep Quechua communities from being covered by the law, because Merino feared its broad application in the Andes would hold up a $50 billion pipeline of mining investments.

Foreign investment in mining has traditionally powered Peru’s fast-growing economy.

Merino has argued that Quechua communities in the Andes are not “indigenous” but instead “peasant” because they mixed with Spanish colonizers centuries ago, often have formal town assemblies, and are less isolated than Amazon tribes.

Humala has made comments echoing Merino’s position.

It is unclear whether Lanegra’s resignation will further delay the application of the law in the Amazon, where it is still expected to cover tribes near Peru’s oil and gas reserves.

“I am grateful for the honor to have served my country and led such a challenging process that has only seen its first chapter,” Lanegra said on Twitter.

Humala had touted the prior consultation law as a salve to widespread and sometimes violent conflicts over mining and energy projects in Peru. Many communities have organized to hold up projects that they say could reduce scarce water supplies, cause pollution or fail to generate sufficient jobs and tax revenues.

When he signed the law in 2011, Humala listed the Quechua as one of the indigenous groups that would be covered by the law to “build a great republic that respects all its nationalities.” (Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Terry Wade and Vicki Allen)


Peru backslides on indigenous rights

Emily Greenspan


8 May 2013

Recent statements from the Peruvian government do not bode well for implementation of Peru’s new Indigenous Peoples Consultation Law (Consultation Law). The landmark law, passed in 2011 and now being implemented, requires the Peruvian government to consult indigenous peoples affected directly by development policies and projects such as oil drilling, mining, roads and forestry. Consultations must aim to achieve agreement or consent. If implemented effectively, the law could help reduce the number of violent conflicts that frequently emerge in the country’s oil and mining industries.

However, last week Peru’s Vice Minister of Culture Ivan Lanegra – responsible for overseeing implementation of Peru’s Consultation Law –

resigned in protest following Executive branch declarations that highland (or campesina) communities do not qualify as indigenous peoples. At the same time, the Peruvian government announced that it will proceed with 14 mining projects located in the Peruvian highlands without prior consultation with neighboring communities.

The Peruvian government should recognize publicly that many highland communities meet national and international criteria for identifying indigenous peoples, and should immediately begin prior consultation processes in accordance with the law. At the same time, the less progressive companies currently fighting the law in Peru should recognize that if they do not comply with law they will be at a competitive disadvantage in the end.

Worrisome signals from the government
Jessica Erickson / Oxfam America

Photo: Jessica Erickson / Oxfam America

In a speech on April 28, President Humala stated that, “Basically there are no native communities…in the sierra [highlands], the majority are agrarian communities resulting from agrarian reform. For the most part native communities are found in the jungle, those called ‘no contactados’ [uncontacted communities living in voluntary isolation]”. This worrisome statement fails to recognize that communities living in voluntary isolation represent only a small percentage of indigenous communities inhabiting forested areas in Peru, and directly contradicts the Consultation Law which states that highland or Andean communities may be considered indigenous peoples as long as they meet certain objective criteria specified in the law. Peru also has a law protecting indigenous knowledge of biological resources which states that highland communities may be considered indigenous peoples.

Peru’s Cabinet (Consejo de Ministros) claims that by moving ahead with 14 mining projects without prior consultation with communities they are attempting to “unfetter” these projects from bureaucratic requirements. However, the government’s approach is shortsighted. If it chooses to proceed with projects impacting indigenous peoples without consultation it would violate not only its own laws, but also international human rights law.

Human rights and business case for community consent

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya stated in a public speech in Lima on April 25:

In my work as special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples for the United Nations, the majority of the problems that reach my attention reflect a lack of adequate consultation with indigenous peoples, in particular on decisions related to development or natural resource extraction projects on their territories…Various treaties, in addition to [International Labor Organization] Convention 169, support the consultation standard…Consultation and its link to the principle of free, prior and informed consent are central elements for a new model of relationships and development.

In fact, if Peru proceeds with mining projects without consulting indigenous communities, the government will risk being taken to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which has interpreted Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) to apply to development projects with significant impacts and has, in several instances, ruled that states failed to meet their FPIC obligations.

In addition, while the government may hope to woo mining companies by bypassing consultation processes, ultimately this approach will be to the detriment of mining companies’ bottom lines as well given the high economic cost of social conflict in the extractive industries. A 2011 study by researchers from Harvard Kennedy School and the University of Queensland found that a world-class mining project (capital expenditure between US$3-5 billion) stands to lose approximately US$20 million per week in lost productivity as a result of delayed production from social conflict. In Peru, mining giant Newmont reported that it lost approximately $2 million per day in the first few days alone after local protests paralyzed its Conga mining project.

In recent years, several oil and mining companies have adopted public policies in favor of securing community approval prior to moving projects forward. We recently released a report showing that 13 of 28 oil and mining companies reviewed have made public commitments to FPIC (five with explicit commitments and an additional eight with indirect or qualified commitments). Companies are beginning to get the message – those that fail to consult communities early and adequately risk facing delays and huge costs down the road.

Implications for the Latin America region

Currently, several other countries in Latin America are considering developing consultation laws similar to Peru’s Consultation Law. Peru has emerged as a leader in the region on community consultation issues, but stands to lose that position if the law is not implemented adequately. A rollback of the law could have serious repercussions for many indigenous communities affected by oil and mining projects throughout Latin America.

  • Emily Greenspan is an extractive industries policy and advocacy advisor with Oxfam America.