Pluspetrol Expanding into Manu National Park

Date of publication: 
17 July 2014

Rumors were circulating about the Peruvian government’s plan to create gas concessions bordering or including parts of the Manú National Park in early 2013. Although the rumors had not been confirmed, arguments for and against those plans had been expressed by the consulting firm for Pluspetrol (the gas company hoping to be approved for these gas concessions) and anthropologists and researchers who fear for the health and safety of not only the isolated and Indigenous people living in Manú, but the parks unique ecology there as well. Although Peruvian law prohibits extractive operations in national parks, Pluspetrol, according to its consulting firm Quartz services, has applied for and been denied permission to enter the region.

Manú National Park is home to 10% of the world’s bird species, 5% of all mammals and 15% of all butterflies, as well as rare animals like jaguars and giant armadillos. It has been declared by Unesco as a World Heritage Site and biosphere reserve, and has been appointed as the most bio diverse area than any other place on the planet. After the oil and gas deposits in Manú National Park were confirmed by the interest shown from Pluspetrol (and even with concealment and denial from the Peruvian government), there had been speculation that Quartz could develop a strategy to acquire permission to disrupt this protected area in the future even though Pluspetrol issued a statement denying any interest in exploring Manú National Park for extractive purposes

“How can any company justify working in such a sensitive region?” asks Rebecca Spooner, a researcher at Survival International. To begin with, Pluspetrol would attempt to directly study the isolated Indigenous communities within the Park and also conduct geological exploration. The expansion will include drilling 18 wells, conducting seismic tests across hundreds of square kms, and building a 6.5-mile flow line in the supposedly protected Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti Reserve for Indigenous people.

Last July, the Ministry of Culture warned that the Nahua, the Kirineri, and the Nanti could be fatally devastated because of their vulnerability to diseases. The report contained numerous negative factors that could face the people and environment of Manú Park that included epidemics, less food, scaring game away, lack of access to resources. But just after that report was made public, it was withdrawn a week later behind the resignations of the culture minister and other Ministry of Culture personnel, after which an outside team (who was believed to have ties to Pluspetrol, encountering a conflict of interest) was contacted to write another report. The report that followed requested Pluspetrol to abandon plans for 3D seismic tests in the Upper River Paquiria region, and for the exploration itself to take care to keep medical control of its workers, limits on people entering its concession, and to respect the “no contact” principle.

The Ministry of Culture is allowing the Upper River Serjali, River Bobinzana, and Upper River Cashiriari regions to be explored by Pluspetrol but is facing criticism for not sufficiently ensuring the protection of Indigenous peoples health and safety in those regions. Although Pluspetrols Camisea project is known as the biggest energy development project in Peru, many Peruvian and international organizations have made their concerns clear on the negative impact this expansion could have on Manú Park and that it could violate Indigenous peoples’ rights. A lawyer at Peru’s Institute of Legal Defense, Juan Carlos Ruiz Molleda, says that “this is incompatible with the state’s obligation to effectively and fundamentally protect their rights to life and health,” he says. “The state has abandoned its role of guaranteeing the human rights of an extremely vulnerable sector of society.”