Amazon Watch, november 23. 2017.- The 45 Achuar indigenous communities under the umbrella of the Federation of the Achuar Nationality of Peru (FENAP) – the territory of which overlaps the majority of oil Block 64 – have once again reiterated their opposition to oil operations within their ancestral territory, this time represented by GeoPark, a Chile-based company that signed a cooperative agreement with the Peruvian government in late 2014.
This October, representatives of dozens of Achuar communities took photos documenting this unwavering opposition at a gathering in the Achuar community of Tsekuntsa, even as GeoPark prepared for its 3rd quarter investment results report during a conference call on November 16th.
FENAP's reiterated rejection of oil activities in their territory, as demonstrated by these new visual expressions of opposition to GeoPark, is entirely consistent with twenty years of written and spoken statements against any oil operations within the approximately 759,800 hectares (1,877,506 acres) of ancestral territory inhabited by the FENAP communities. Those statements include:
- "The photos taken are evidence that the Achuar People of the FENAP federation roundly reject the oil company GeoPark within Achuar territory." (text within the official October 2017 assembly minutes, reflecting the agreement of the participants)
- "We strongly reject oil companies. Why? Because today we know very well that oil companies entered into other indigenous peoples' territories or even into the lands of the Achuar people in the Corrientes River and left a series of spills. Seeing these negative consequences, we are united in saying that we totally reject oil exploitation within the territory of the Achuar People under FENAP." (FENAP President Jeremías Petsein, as interviewed during the October 2017 assembly)
- "We have lived through the bad experience of damage to our habitat, health, and life as a result of activities related to the Northern Peruvian Oil Pipeline and activities of the oil company Talisman, from which there continue to be environmental damages, in part within our territory, that to date have not been remediated. Given this we have made the firm decision to not permit any oil activity within our territory. As part of this decision, we have expelled five oil companies that entered our territory without our consent." ("Public Notification: Prohibition Against Entering and Carrying Out Oil Activities Within Territories of the Achuar People of Pastaza Basin – FENAP", 3 December 2016 – available here).
- "Respect the agreements of the Achuar congresses which have decided to not accept the incursion of oil companies, loggers or mining in Achuar territory." (Point 6 under the Territory section of the Achuar Life Plan, 26 November 2003 – available here)
GeoPark Reaction to Achuar Opposition
The company was quoted in a December 9th Reuters article highlighting Achuar opposition as saying, "GeoPark respects the rights of indigenous people and would not seek to develop areas where local populations are opposed to drilling activity."
However, it has publicly expressed its enthusiasm for carrying out oil activities in the broader area throughout Block 64, most of which is territory pertaining to the 45 communities associated with FENAP that oppose any drilling. Examples:
- "The total Morona Block also includes a large exploration potential with high impact prospects and plays – including gross unrisked exploration resources ranging from 300 to 500 mmbo, as audited by Gaffney, Cline & Associates." (GeoPark Announces Morona Block Approval in Peru, 1 December 2016)
- "In addition to the Situche Central field, the Morona Block has a large exploration potential with several high impact prospects and plays – with exploration resources currently estimated to range from 200 to 600 mmbo. This important component of the project [emphasis added] will significantly increase GeoPark's overall inventory of exploration resources and complement GeoPark's growing reserve and cash flow base already established in Colombia, Chile and Brazil." (GeoPark Announces Entry Into Peru With Acquisition of the Morona Block, 2 October 2014)
Amazon Watch Commentary
"Geopark's investors need to understand that this is a highly controversial project from which multiple more well-established oil companies have fled. The actual area of Block 64 where exploration has previously been carried out – Situche Central – is claimed as ancestral territory by Achuar communities that don't want any drilling. A 2009 confrontation at Situche Central almost led to physical violence between Achuar, a tension that could flare again with renewed exploration at that site. Will GeoPark report this declaration of opposition from Achuar people of Peru in its 'results' call?" said Andrew Miller, Advocacy Director for Amazon Watch.
Block 64, located in the northern Peruvian Amazon close to the border with Ecuador, was created in 1995. Since that time, various international oil companies have entered the concession, including ARCO, Occidental, and Talisman, all of which eventually abandoned operations. Talisman announced its decision to leave in September of 2012, followed by an announcement in early 2013 that the block was transferred to Peru state-owned company PetroPeru. Geopark acquired the block in October of 2014 and received governmental approval to proceed with exploration activities in December of 2016.
On November 9th, 2017, Amazon Watch released a report highlighting the investments of leading U.S. financial institutions JPMorgan Chase and BlackRock in GeoPark and other oil companies attempting to drill for oil in the Amazon rainforest. The report details the climate, indigenous rights, and financial risks of these investments and calls out the attempts of JPMorgan and BlackRock to greenwash their investments with corporate responsibility statements and appearances at climate conferences.