Achuar Communities Reach Settlement with Oxy

15 March 2015

On Thursday March 6, at a press conference in Lima, representatives from five Achuar communities in the upper Corrientes river basin in Peru’s Amazon region and from the US-based NGO Earth Rights International (ERI) announced an out-of-court settlement with the Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy) over claims of damage to the environment and peoples’ health during the thirty years (1970 to 2000) that the company extracted petroleum from Block 1AB.

The suit was brought to the courts in California in 2007 by ERI on behalf of five Achuar communities affected by the company’s operations along the Corrientes River although the company’s activities also impacted on communities in the Pastaza and Tigre river basins. After a long legal battle the US Supreme Court, in a historic precedent, for the first time accepted to hear a case in a US court involving a US-based company’s dispute overseas. However, an out-of court settlement was reached before the case was finally brought to court.

The settlement was reached in September 2013 but it was only at the beginning of March that the communities and their allies were permitted to announce the confidential agreement. Neither the amount nor other details of the settlement were announced. However, the newly elected president of the Upper Corrientes Development Fund (FODAC for its initials in Spanish), Pablo Kukush, said that the money would be employed to fund productive activities and education and health activities in the five communities. Projects in other communities not parties to the settlement but affected by Oxy’s activities might also be considered.

Block 1AB currently accounts for 17% of the crude petroleum produced in Peru.

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