Just days ago, ConocoPhillips CEO James Mulva announced that his company would discontinue its involvement in a controversial oil drilling project in a remote area of the northern Peruvian Amazon.
The oil company had been under fire from environmental and human rights organizations for its involvement in a joint venture with Repsol-YPF in an area known as “Oil Block 39.”
The operation was seen as a threat to the indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation in the Oil Block 39 region, and organizations claim the local tribes risked forced displacement and deadly epidemic as a result of the oil companies’ presence there.
The region that contains Oil Block 39 is considered to be one of the most biodiverse in the world and is home to at least two uncontacted indigenous tribes. Uncontacted Indians lack immunity to diseases brought by oil workers and could react violently if their lands are at threat.
Last year, more than 50 international NGOs signed a letter asking oil companies Repsol, Perenco and ConocoPhillips to withdraw immediately from the region.
“Oil operations in regions inhabited by isolated indigenous peoples presents [sic] an unavoidable and unacceptable risk to their continued survival,” said Mitch Anderson, Corporate Campaigns Director at Amazon Watch. “It is crucial now that remaining operators in the region, Perenco and Repsol, follow ConocoPhillips’ lead and withdraw from these controversial oil blocks.”
Amazon Watch reports that the Peruvian government has disregarded the extensive anthropological evidence supporting the existence of uncontacted tribes in this region and the lead operator of Block 39, Repsol-YPF, continues seismic exploration while the Anglo-French company Perenco pushes ahead with production in Block 67.
“If these global businesses truly care about ethical responsibility they cannot continue to work in areas where they are endangering peoples’ lives,” said Survival International director Stephen Corry. “It is not possible to obtain uncontacted tribes’ permission to work in these oil blocks, so the only logical conclusion is that they should keep off their land.”
ConocoPhillips held a 45% interest in Block 39 in a co-venture with Repsol-YPF, the block operator and majority owner. The company did not reveal the buyer of their stake.
To urge Peruvian President Alan Garcia to protect uncontacted tribes, sign the petition here.
Image Credit: Flickr - Daveness_98