Barely a week after we reported on Pluspetrol’s plan to begin exploratory drilling in a protected area of the Peruvian Amazon, the Argentinian company publicly backtracked. Documents leaked to the Guardian revealed that the company was interested in tapping gas reserves well within the borders of Manú National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site called ‘the most biodiverse place on Earth.’
“Our mission, as an institution providing specialist technical services to Pluspetrol, will be to contribute not only to the continuation of activities in Lot 88, but also to the development of the Manú National Park protected area. Pluspetrol has plans to do geological exploration in the River Maquizapango region and/or its surroundings, an area to the east of the Lot (88) and inside the Manú National Park,” reads the leaked document, a report by consulting firm Quartz Services.
Before this glaring evidence came to light, the company denied any plans to conduct operations inside the park, which is home to several uncontacted tribes and countless species of flora and fauna. Since the Guardian piece and subsequent public outcry, the gas giant has released a statement in which it admitted planning what it described as ‘superficial geological studies… for scientific interest,’ in Manu National Park, but promising that it had now abandoned these plans.
According to Survival International, the Peruvian national parks authority Sernanp has also released a statement following the media storm, confirming it had denied Pluspetrol’s request to work in the area on the grounds that the Manu’s protected status ‘expressly prohibits the exploitation of natural resources’.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t affect the company’s existing Camisea project, one of the biggest natural gas projects in the Amazon. Camisea is located in in an area known as ‘Block 88,’ the majority of which lies inside the Nahua-Nanti reserve for uncontacted Indians. Although expansion of Camisea is prohibited by a 2003 Supreme Decree, last year Peru’s Ministry of Energy approved further gas exploration inside block 88 in violation of the Decree and international law.
It’s only thanks to brave investigative reporters and the millions who voiced their concern about Pluspetrol’s plans that the company has backtracked. For now, at least, ‘the most biodiverse place on earth’ is safe from further exploitation.