‘Business as usual’: Peru approves massive oil project just days after ‘Amazon’s Tiananmen’

Crossed spears left by uncontacted Indians in the region where Perenco is working.
Crossed spears left by uncontacted Indians in the region where Perenco is working.
© Marek Wolodzko/AIDESEP

Peru's government has given the green light to an Anglo-French company to drill for oil in the Amazon, just thirteen days after more than 30 people died in protests against the exploitation of the rainforest.

The project, located on land inhabited by two tribes of uncontacted Indians, is believed to be Peru’s biggest oil discovery in thirty years. The company, Perenco, a major gas supplier to the UK, has in the past denied any uncontacted Indians live there.

Until recently, Perenco had been blocked from entering the area by local indigenous protesters. With help from Peru’s armed forces, the company managed to break through the blockade on at least one occasion.  

High-ranking figures in Peru’s government hope that Perenco’s project will transform the Peruvian economy. While protests against the company were taking place, Perenco’s chairman, Francois Perrodo, an Oxford University polo blue and scion of one of the wealthiest families in France, met Peru’s President Garcia in Lima and pledged to invest $2bn in the project.

The government’s green light comes just days after protests elsewhere in northern Peru were violently broken up by police, leading to the deaths of both police officers and indigenous protesters. The exact numbers are still unknown. Survival has issued an eyewitness account of the violence.

Perenco intends to build new platforms and wells involving airlifting in, amongst other things, 42,000 sacks of cement. It admits that ‘contamination of soil’, ‘contamination of water’ and the flight of game and birds are possible consequences of its work. All these are essential to the survival of the uncontacted Indians who live there. More seriously, the Indians face the very real threat of contagion from diseases to which they have no immunity.

Survival’s Director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘Anyone who hoped that the dreadful violence of the past few weeks might have made Peru’s government act with a bit more sensitivity towards the indigenous people of the Amazon will be really dismayed at this news. The timing couldn’t be worse – the government is trying to present a more friendly image in public, but as far as the oil companies are concerned, it looks like business as usual.’

For more information please contact Miriam Ross at Survival International on (44) (0)20 7687 8734 or (44) (0)7504 543 367 or email [email protected]