Colombian oil company to enter uncontacted tribes' land

March 20, 2009

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Colombia’s state oil company will enter territory inhabited by some of the world’s last uncontacted Indians in Peru under an agreement reached this week.

The company, Ecopetrol, has signed a deal with Brazil’s state oil company, Petrobras, which has a contract to explore in two regions of the Peruvian Amazon – both inhabited by uncontacted tribes.

‘Through its affiliate in Perú, Ecopetrol entered into two agreements with Petrobras Energía del Perú, S.A. to acquire shared (sic) in two exploration and production blocks in Perú,’ reads a statement from Ecopetrol published on Tuesday. ‘In the first block (Lot 110), Ecopetrol will have a 50% share. In the second (Lot 117), the company's holding will be 25%.’

Lot 110 covers almost all of a reserve supposedly set aside for uncontacted Murunahua Indians who are exceedingly vulnerable to any contact with outsiders because of their lack of immunity to disease. Some Murunahua have already been contacted by illegal loggers – an estimated 50% of them were wiped out as a result.

Lot 117 includes part of a proposed reserve for uncontacted Indians. The creation of the reserve is supported by local Indigenous organisation ORPIO and national Indigenous organisation AIDESEP.

The deal with Ecopetrol comes immediately after representatives from Indigenous communities said they would not allow Petrobras to explore in Lot 117. ‘Yet again President Garcia’s government is ignoring the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 169 and the United Nation’s Declaration on Indigenous Rights,’ said AIDESEP’s president about the government's decision to allow Petrobras to work in the region.

Survival director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘It’s possible Ecopetrol don’t know what they’re letting themselves in for: the land they’ve just agreed to explore is inhabited by uncontacted tribes. By working there, Ecopetrol will break international law and violate the rights of some of the most vulnerable people on earth.’

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]

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Uncontacted Tribes of Peru