LIMA (Reuters) - United Nations human rights experts on Thursday called on Peru to suspend negotiations on a new contract for a large oilfield in the Amazon until past pollution was cleaned up and the rights of indigenous groups respected.
Canada’s Frontera Energy Corporation now operates Block 192 in the Peruvian Amazon and is in talks with Peru about renewing its contract once the current one expires in September.
U.N. Special Rapporteurs Baskut Tuncak and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, independent experts tasked with investigating human rights issues, said Peru had failed to clean up pollution from oil spills in the region and was not doing enough to ensure indigenous groups had a voice in talks.
“The Peruvian Government must suspend the direct negotiations with companies until the right to free, prior and informed consent is guaranteed, and all environmental damage has been remedied,” Tuncak and Tauli-Corpuz said in a statement from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
The remarks will likely be welcomed by indigenous rights activists in Peru who say a law requiring the government to include native groups in talks on projects affecting them has not been fully enforced.
Peru’s environment ministry and energy and mines ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In previous years, the government has declared several environmental emergencies in the region due to oil pollution.
Frontera did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Peru’s government has been trying to jumpstart investments in the country’s oil industry that have dropped sharply since global oil prices fell and a series of ruptures largely shuttered the main pipeline serving the sector.
The aging pipeline, operated by state-owned oil company Petroperu, suffered a new rupture this week, Petroperu said Wednesday. The company has blamed most of the dozen spills from the pipeline last year on attacks from unknown parties.
In June, Frontera reached a deal with indigenous people who had occupied Block 192 in a land-use dispute. The company agreed to pay them for use of land and finance community projects.
Block 192 has produced an average of 2,565 barrels of oil per day this year, a sharp drop from previous years when it churned out some 10,000 bpd, according to data from state regulator Perupetro.
U.S. oil company Occidental Petroleum Corp produced oil from Block 192 for decades before Argentine energy company Pluspetrol took over operations in 2001. Frontera was awarded a two-year contract in 2015.
Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Andrew Hay