Norway divided over Repsol's activities in Peruvian Amazon

Repsol wants to mine in the same area an indigenous group live in voluntary isolation.

Norway divided over Repsol's activities in Peruvian Amazon

(Photo: Wikipedia)

Norway is divided over the country’s involvement in Repsol, which is operating in an area of the Peruvian Amazon where a group of indigenous people are thought to be living in voluntary isolation.

According to Environmental writer for the Guardian, David Hill, Norway’s Council of Ethics within its ‘Government Pension Fund Global’ (GPFG) advised the Ministry of Finance to back out of investments in Spanish oil and gas giant Repsol three years ago, after concerns of the company’s practices in the region, but the country remains invested in the company.

The area in contention is a 745,141-hectare area between the Napo and Tigre rivers in northern Peru that is thought to have oil. The area, which has been labelled ‘Lot 39’ by Repsol, was proposed as a reserve by a regional indigenous organization ORAI 10 years ago, but that never happened and Repsol was given permission by Peru’s Ministry of Energy in June 2013 to begin work, by drilling exploratory holes and conducting seismic tests on the area.

Parts of ‘Lot 39’ overlap the proposed reserve that is home to an indigenous group living in voluntary isolation. There are concerns that contact with the outside world could decimate the group – they would be exposed to new diseases and illnesses, against which they don’t have immunity.

Reporter Kadafi Zaman asked Norway’s Ministry of Finance’s Paal Bjørnestad why the Ministry of Finance had not yet withdrawn their investments from Repsol, but the minister refused to comment.

“Reports by the Council on Ethics are highly confidential until they are made public by the Ministry of Finance, but never before has a recommendation from the Council been under consideration for three years. . . The head of the Council will not comment on the Repsol case, but he is not hiding his dissatisfaction with how cases are being handled within the Ministry,” said Zaman.

The concern is that Repsol’s activities so close to the indigenous people will force them to come into contact with the outside the world. Repsol said that they are reducing the risk of contact with the group by vaccinating and training their staff and that reports on there being indigenous people living in voluntary isolation are only based on oral testimony.

Carmen Rosa Sandoval, from Earthrights International in Peru has a different story to tell, however. She calls Repsol’s comments on its contingency plan “misleading” and “more than irresponsible.”

“It’s impossible to effectively prevent disease transmission . . . Not every virus, bacteria, or parasite can be avoided by vaccinations, nor are they only introduced by people – but by clothes, belongings, equipment and food too,” she said.

According to writer, David Hill, Norway’s GPFG is considered by some to be the world’s largest sovereign fund and picks its investments carefully, blacklisting companies that commit serious environmental damages or human rights violations, among other sins. Some of the 60 companies excluded by the GPFG are Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, British American Tobacco Plc, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Rio Tinto Ltd and Vedanta Resources Plc.

What do you think, readers? Should Norway withdraw its investments from Repsol? Should Repsol join the list of blacklisted companies, or is its Contingency Plan enough? Email us your comments to editor@peruthisweek with ‘opinion: Lot 39’ in the subject line.

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