Peru Postpones Amazon Oil and Gas Auction

Written by: David Hill

Back in September Perupetro issued a statement saying it would announce a new round of oil and gas concessions before the end of this year. I quote its English version verbatim:

‘The board of directors of PERUPETRO S.A. approved the delimitation of the 36 blocks that will be part of the Selection Process of the Companies for Hydrocarbons Exploration and Exploitation, which call will be launched at the end of November.’

Come November, though, the plan changed. At the ‘9th BN Americas Southern Cone Energy Summit’ held on the 14th and 15th in Lima the chairman of the board, Rosa Maria Ortiz, said the auction would take place in 2013.

‘She said that next year is expected to launch the call for the Bidding Round of new areas with potential for gas and oil,’ read a Perupetro statement reporting on the summit.

It’s not clear why it has been postponed. Civil society pressure? Not enough interest from companies? Legal reasons? Perupetro’s Promotions Coordinator, Winston Wusen Sam, didn’t answer the question I put to him about the reasons for the postponement, and when I asked him for a map of the lots he said that they hadn’t been confirmed yet.

Well, that may be, but follow this link from an Alianza Arkana article in late October and you’ll see, in the bottom right hand corner of the image, a Perupetro map with what looks to me like 36, or there or thereabouts, new lots marked on it.

Indeed, a more user-friendly version of this map can be found at the very bottom of a Perupetro presentation apparently given at the World Heavy Oil Congress in Scotland in September. ‘BIDDING ROUND 2012,’ it reads. ’36 BLOCKS: 9 offshore, 27 onshore. FOR EXPLORATION ACTIVITIES: November 2012. . .’

One of the most notable things about these lots, in addition to the frightening fact that so many of them are in the Amazon, is that the so-called ‘Lot Fitzcarrald’ is not among them. This particular lot would constitute part of the expansion of the already controversial ‘Camisea project’, Peru’s biggest hydrocarbon producer, and certain high-ranking individuals within Peru’s oil and gas sector were hoping it would be established before the end of 2012.

‘We hope (its gazetting) will be finalized after completion of some legal proceedings, but in any case it will certainly be completed this year,’ Peru’s Energy Minister told Peruvian newspaper Gestion in April.

Lot Fitzcarrald has already elicited fierce opposition from indigenous organizations because of the threats it poses to groups living without regular contact with outsiders. Last week AIDESEP, FENAMAD, ORAU and COMARU announced they would take legal action against expansion in Camisea.

‘The imminent expansion of these activities in Lot 88, as well as in Lot Fitzcarrald, would result in the extinction of indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation and initial contact,’ their statement read.

But next door, in Ecuador, it’s a different story. There, the government promised to launch its own bidding round in November and, on the 28th, it went ahead and did so. 13 new lots covering nearly eight million hectares of rainforest are now up for grabs, according to Amazon Watch.

David Hill studied anthropology at Oxford University and worked for Survival International between 2005-2010. He is now a freelance journalist and currently a consultant for the Forest Peoples Programme.

 17 December 2012

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