Oil expansion and conflict in Loreto
01 December 2018
On 28 November, the government announced the approval of the development of Block 95, an oil project in Loreto already producing some 1,000 barrels a day as part of the exploration programme conducted by the Calgary-based company PetroTal.
The company took over operational control in 2017. This project will eventually increase national output of oil by more than 25%, that is 12,000 barrels a day. PetroTal states that Block 95 has proven and probable reserves totalling 39.8 million barrels of oil.
Inevitably, the project raises environmental and social concerns. It overlaps part of the Pacaya Samiria Natural Reserve, the second largest in Peru, and residents in neighbouring provinces have concerns about the effects on water and health. President Martín Vizcarra, in announcing the news, praised PetroTal as a company which “would respect the environment and act with social responsibility, for the benefit of the population”.
Meanwhile, on the evening preceding the president's announcement, Petroperú, the state oil company, had to announce the spillage of approximately 8,000 barrels of crude oil in the Loreto region, caused by damage to the pipeline that links the main jungle production areas with the coast.
Petroperú claims that the spillage was the result of actions by members of the Mayuriaga indigenous community, aggravated by the fact that “townspeople then prevented their technicians accessing the pipe”. It was claimed that the action was a protest over the results of recent municipal elections in the district.
Petroperú has routinely blamed communities for sabotaging the pipeline, a claim that the communities have repeatedly rejected.