Native protesters seize oil wells in Peru to urge government action

Date of publication: 
2 September 2015

LIMA – Indigenous protesters in Peru seized oil wells in an Amazonian oil block on Tuesday and said they also planned to halt output in a neighboring concession to press the government to address pollution and compensation demands.

Achuar communities shut down 11 wells and took control of an airdrome in oil block 8 to demand clean water, reparations for oil pollution and more pay for the use of native land, said Carlos Sandi, chief of the indigenous federation Feconaco.

Argentine energy firm Pluspetrol, which operates block 8, said daily output of about 8,500 barrels per day had stopped. The company urged protesters in block 8 to seek dialogue.

“So far, however, they insist on holding control of installations,” Pluspetrol said in a statement.

Sandi said the Achuar in oil block 192 would soon seize wells there following a dispute with the government over proceeds for communities in a new contract awarded to Pacific Exploration and Production Corporation.

Both oil blocks are in Peru’s northern region of Loreto.

“The decision (to seize wells) has been made, we just need to wrap up some coordinations,” Sandi said.

Peru signed a last-minute deal with Pacific for the rights to tap oil block 192 for the next two years after an open auction for a 30-year contract failed to draw any bids last month.

The government included benefits for some indigenous communities in the new contract but a stalemate with others over their share of oil profits left many out.

Representatives of Pacific could not be reached outside of regular business hours.

Pluspetrol previously operated block 192, which produces about 12,000 barrels per day.

Native protesters have halted output from block 192 several times in recent years to demand the government clean up spills and give them more compensation. Peru has declared several environmental emergencies there because of oil pollution.

Peru is rife with conflicts over mining and energy projects. The South American country is a relatively small oil producer and imports crude to meet local demand.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj and Teresa Cespedes; Editing by Christopher Cushing)