US Oil and Gas Firm Hunt Urged to Suspend Amazon Exploration

Concerns over indigenous reserve and archaeological remains prompts call from local federation

Source: The Guardian

An indigenous federation from south-east Peru wants exploration operations by US company Hunt Oil in a supposedly protected reserve in the Amazon to be suspended.

“This is not a fight against investment but a fight for a socially just, environmentally balanced and moral development,” says FENAMAD, which claims to represent seven indigenous peoples and more than 30 communities in Peru’s Madre de Dios region, in a statement released last Friday. “As a result we request. . . that operations – which are putting the cultural patrimony of the Harakbut people, the region and nation at risk – are stopped while the Master Plan for the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve [ACR] is brought up-to-date.”

FENAMAD states that there are “archaeological remains” in the ACR within “direct influence” of Hunt’s drilling, that the company itself has acknowledged this, and that as a result the Culture Ministry should intervene.

FENAMAD also makes six other requests, including that the process by which Hunt obtained its licence is investigated, that its contract is revised, that the heart of the ACR is kept “healthy”, and that indigenous peoples’ “own vision” of development is respected. The final demand reads:

We request, in the name of Peru’s indigenous peoples, that Hunt Oil, representatives of the national and regional government, the Ministry of Energy, and professionals from the extractive sector in general abandon, for ethical and moral reasons, opportunism, egoism and avarice, and respect the rights and territories of indigenous peoples.

The concession where Hunt is operating, Lot 76, is estimated by the Energy Ministry to hold over 12 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – which could be more than Peru’s two biggest currently-producing concessions, Lot 56 and Lot 88, combined.

Hunt signed a contract to operate in Lot 76 in 2006 when the concession overlapped more than 90% of the ACR – a “protected natural area” created in 2002, according to the National Service for Protected Natural Areas (SERNANP), for the Harakbut and to “protect a centre of great biological diversity.”

According to FENAMAD, the ACR is to “protect the headwaters of the rivers in Madre de Dios and the ancestral territories of the Harakbut,” and Peru’s decision to contract Hunt violated an international law giving indigenous peoples the “right to free, prior and informed consultation.”