Indigenous people living on Peru’s largest oil field concession have seized some facilities operated by Frontera Energy demanding that the government apply an indigenous rights law before signing a new contract with the Canadian company, a tribal chieftain said on Tuesday.
The so-called prior consultation law, passed in 2011, requires the government to seek input from indigenous people before approving any development plans that might affect them.
Tribal chiefs in Frontera’s Block 192 said the government has refused to carry out the consultation process even though it is negotiating a new contract with Frontera, whose 2-year contract is due to expire this month.
“If the government says it’ll carry out prior consultation, we’ll automatically end the protest,” Wilmer Chavez, chief of the community of Los Jardines, said in a telephone interview.
Chavez said that protesters from the indigenous community had taken control of oil drums and other facilities to curb output in Block 192.
Government offices tasked with oil drilling and indigenous rights did not respond to requests for comment.
Frontera, which produced some 7,500 barrels a day from Block 192 in July, said in a statement that it values community consent and that only the government could legally carry out prior consultation.
“Since our arrival to the area of Block 192, Frontera Energy has been working to gain the community’s trust and act as a mediator to ease potential tensions between the government, the industry and the community,” the company said in the statement.
Amazonian tribes in Block 192 want the government to sign new commitments for the clean-up of oil pollution and for access to health care and education in the remote region before awarding Frontera a new contract, said Chavez.
Four other chiefs, speaking to foreign media in Lima where they had traveled to meet with government officials, described similar demands in the 16 out of 20 villages they represent in Block 192 and vowed to stage their own protests unless prior consultation was applied.
Carlos Sandi, chief of the Corrientes River basin, told reporters that the government must fulfill its promises to clean up oil pollution that is sickening local residents.
U.S. oil company Occidental Petroleum Corp operated Block 192 for about 40 years before Argentine energy company Pluspetrol took over in 2001.
Frontera said negotiations with Peru on a new deal for Block192 were ongoing and that in coming weeks it should have a better idea of whether it will continue to operate there.