Oil corporation Perenco endangering lives of “uncontacted” indigenous people in Peru

By David Hill / Mongabay

The company hoping to exploit the oil deposits slated to transform Peru’s economy has been declared to be endangering the lives of indigenous people living in “voluntary isolation” by the country’s indigenous affairs department (INDEPA).

Perenco, an Anglo-French company with headquarters in London and Paris, is currently seeking approval from Peru’s Energy Ministry (MEM) to develop its operations in the Loreto region in the north of the country.

MEM has already blocked Perenco once this year by refusing to approve the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the next stage of its operations. One of the reasons given was the company’s failure to obtain INDEPA’s “technical opinion” on its EIA.

That opinion, expressed in a seven page report, was forthcoming on 20 February and sent by MEM to Benoit de la Fouchardiere, Perenco’s general manager in Peru, on 5 March.

Perenco fails to acknowledge “the total superimposition of Lot 67A and Lot 67B by a proposal to create a reserve for indigenous people who live in voluntary isolation,” INDEPA says.

“This is concerning, given that the exclusion of this proposed reserve doesn’t allow for the identification of the possible negative social and environmental impacts of the project on the isolated people who live there.”

INDEPA is especially critical of Perenco’s Anthropological Contingency Plan, which it says denies the existence of the “isolated” people and thereby increases their vulnerability if contact with them is made.

“No measures to prevent the transmission of illnesses or epidemics are considered, as they should be according to regulations and technical health guides about indigenous people in isolation or initial contact,” it says.

INDEPA’s report is potentially embarrassing for Perenco because it has repeatedly claimed there are no “voluntarily isolated,” or “uncontacted,” people in the region where it is operating. Its Latin American regional manager once compared them to the UK’s Loch Ness monster, declaring, “Much talk but never any evidence.”

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