ConocoPhillips Withdraws From Controversial Amazon Oil Project

Peru Amazon photo
Image: PearlyV via flickr

At the ConocoPhillips annual shareholder meeting last week, CEO James Mulva announced the company's withdrawal from the oil-drilling project in Block 39 of the northern Peruvian Amazon. It was a highly controversial project because indigenous populations live in voluntary isolation in the region, were not consulted about the drilling, and risk forced displacement and deadly epidemics, according to Amazon Watch.The group's Corporate Campaigns Director Mitch Anderson said, "It is crucial now that remaining operators in the region, Perenco and Repsol, follow ConocoPhillips' lead and withdraw from these controversial oil blocks."

Amazon Watch explains more:

This affected region of the northern Peruvian Amazon is one of the most biodiverse in the world and is home to at least two uncontacted indigenous tribes. The extreme vulnerability of peoples living in voluntary isolation due to their lack of immunity to outside diseases has been well documented and they face the very real threat of extinction if they are contacted.

Not Over Yet
ConocoPhillips' withdrawal does not mean the drilling stops: the company held a 45-percent interest in Block 39, but the Spanish-Argentine company Repsol-YPF is the block operator and majority owner. ConocoPhillips' share was simply sold to another (undisclosed) buyer.

Survival International Director Stephen Corry said after the news, "It is not possible to obtain uncontacted tribes' permission to work in these oil blocks, so the only logical conclusion is that they should keep off their land."

Amazon Watch says the Peruvian government has earmarked more than 75 percent of its Amazon territory for oil and gas activities, and plans to auction an 22 more oil blocks in the near future.

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