Peru: Oil pipeline and uncontacted tribes

By Milagros Salazar

, by IPS

A 200-km oil pipeline that Franco-British oil group Perenco aims to build in the heart of Peru’s Amazon jungle region is at the centre of a controversy because of the reported existence of uncontacted native groups in the area.

In early 2008, Perenco acquired the exploration and production rights to Lot 67, which has total reserves of over 300 million barrels.

The firm plans to build a 200-km pipeline, which would connect to an existing one, in order to pipe the oil to Peru’s Pacific coast.

A Perenco spokesman told IPS that the company plans to invest 1.5 billion dollars in the project and that oil would begin to be pumped in January 2011.

The oilfield is in Loreto, Peru’s northernmost, and largest, region. A remote, sparsely populated Amazon jungle region, Loreto comprises nearly one-third of the country’s territory.

According to the Peruvian Rainforest Inter-Ethnic Development Association (AIDESEP), the pipeline would run through the ancestral territory of the nomadic Huaorani, Pananujuri and Aushiri tribes, which live in voluntary isolation in an area known as Napo Tigre.

The DGAAE, the energy project environmental unit of Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, noted in March that Perenco had not included an "anthropological contingency plan" in its environmental impact study for the pipeline, as required for approval of the study.

The contingency plan is needed in case the company’s workers run into uncontacted Indians. More...