Oil chief seeks contact with uncontacted tribes

May 17, 2007

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Peru’s oil chief has provoked a storm of controversy with plans to contact some of the world’s last uncontacted Indian tribes to ‘consult’ them about potential oil exploration on their land. Any forcible contact threatens them with extinction.

‘We don’t know the uncontacted tribes’ position. Nobody has consulted them and with this investigation we are going to find out what they think,’ said Daniel Saba, chairman of Perupetro, the government body responsible for granting oil licences to companies.

In equally controversial comments recently, Mr Saba said he doubted whether the uncontacted Indians even exist. In fact, at least 15 such tribes are known to survive.

Mr Saba’s comments come after US oil firm Barrett Resources admitted its workers are likely to meet uncontacted Indians if it is allowed by the Ministry of Mines and Energy to develop its oil find in Peru’s northern Amazon. The Ministry’s decision is expected imminently.

‘During seismic activities. . . workers will probably meet these uncontacted peoples,’ Barrett said.

Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘It is extraordinarily arrogant of Mr Saba to think he can ‘consult’ with uncontacted Indians as if they were ordinary Peruvian villagers. Both Mr Saba, and Barrett Resources, should surely be aware that forced contact with isolated tribal people carries the real risk that they will be wiped out.’

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

Uncontacted Tribes of Peru