Oil industry told to keep off uncontacted tribes’ land

Oil companies from all over the world have been warned by Peru’s national indigenous peoples’ organization not to explore for oil in areas where uncontacted tribes live. The tribes face extinction from an oil boom in Peru that has seen 70% of the Peruvian Amazon opened up to exploration.

The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP) has written to 14 companies saying, ‘We want you to understand the extreme vulnerability of these isolated peoples and the risks they will face if hydrocarbon activity takes place on their land.’

Exxon Mobil and Repsol YPF are amongst the companies which AIDESEP has written to. 19 oil lots are due to be sold by auction on July 12 and seven of them are superimposed over areas inhabited by uncontacted tribes. The auction is organised by Perupetro, whose president, Daniel Saba, recently caused outrage by questioning the tribes’ existence and then announcing his intention to contact them.

The danger posed by oil companies to the tribes is enormous because of their lack of immunity to outsiders’ diseases. Following exploration on their land in the 1980s, more than 50% of the previously uncontacted Nahua tribe died.

Survival International’s Director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘Contacting these peoples is tantamount to destroying them. That has been proved over and over again. It's surely time to heed the lesson of history and ensure it doesn't happen again. Enforced contact with such peoples is as unacceptable as slavery. No responsible corporation should even be considering going into their lands.’

For further information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]