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‘Inside job’ as Peru eyes gas in uncontacted tribes’ land

In the early 1980s, Shell workers opened up paths into the uncontacted Nahua Indians’ land. Diseases soon wiped out half the tribe.

Secret plans reveal Peru is actively pursuing new gas reserves inside protected tribal land, a flagrant violation of laws that prevent such projects.

The Nahua-Nanti Reserve in southeast Peru is known for its uncontacted Amazon tribes, but more controversially, for a wide stretch of gas fields called the Camisea project.

Only last month, despite 75% of one gas block already dominating the reserve, Peru’s Ministry of Mines and Energy gave the Camisea consortium the green light for more gas exploration.

And now Peru has gone further, releasing plans for the country’s first state-owned oil block, which will be inside the legally protected area.

Known as Fitzcarrald, and owned by PetroPeru, Survival can reveal the new site is projected to be east of Camisea’s Block 88.

If confirmed, its location will cut the Nahua-Nanti Reserve in half, and put uncontacted tribes’ lives in immediate danger.

Peru’s indigenous organization FENAMAD says ‘there is no doubt the government is attempting to cut up indigenous territories for gas exploration…which will be reflected in the genocide and ethnocide of indigenous peoples.’

The new plans are a clear violation of a 2003 Supreme Decree prohibiting any new development of natural resources inside the Nahua-Nanti Reserve.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘These steps not only jeopardize the future of uncontacted and contacted tribes in the reserve, but also go entirely against the law. Previous gas exploration in this area has decimated Indian tribes, so it’s astonishing that the government is prepared to contemplate history repeating itself, and doesn’t appear to care what the consequences are.’

See how the Fitzcarrald site will encroach on the Nahua-Nanti Reserve (pdf, 3 MB)
Download Peru’s 2003 Supreme Decree on the Nahua-Nanti Reserve (pdf, 83 KB)

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RELATED: Peru defies UN breakthrough on uncontacted tribes 4 April 2012

Peru’s government is ignoring new UN guidelines on the protection of uncontacted Indians in the Amazon.

Instead of backing the UN’s landmark report, which supports the tribes’ right to be left alone, Peru is allowing the country’s largest gas project to expand further into indigenous territories known to house numerous uncontacted Indians.

The new UN guidance makes clear that uncontacted tribes’ land should be untouchable, and that ‘no rights should be granted that involve the use of natural resources’.

The expansion plan adds to existing controversies around Argentine gas giant Pluspetrol and its notorious Camisea project in southeast Peru.

Past oil and gas exploration in Peru has resulted in violent and disastrous contact with isolated Indians.

In the early 1980s, Shell workers opened up paths into the uncontacted Nahua Indians’ land. Diseases soon wiped out half the tribe.

One surviving Nahua who lives close to Camisea’s developments said, ‘The company should not be here. All the time we hear helicopters. Our animals have left, there are no fish. For this, I don’t want the company. No! No company.’

Despite an electoral campaign that promised to respect indigenous rights, Peru’s President Ollanta Humala has done little to guarantee the survival of indigenous peoples.

The Camisea consortium includes US-based Hunt Oil and Spain’s Repsol. Both have been accused of violating tribal peoples’ rights.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘The UN’s breakthrough report at last recognises the rights of uncontacted Indians. Peru needs to read it and respect those who wish to be left alone before entire tribes are lost forever.’

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