Posted by: Ali | October 30, 2009


So it occurred to me recently that although I am living in what could be considered the Third World, I haven’t really written much about “world issues,” just things that I see or experience firsthand.  It kinda provides a really biased perspective of Peru if I only talk about the things that I personally see, because I am first of all, in Lima, second of all, not seeking out danger or attention, and thirdly, don’t know everything that’s going on here.

So I was reading the news the other day and I noticed an article about a mining dispute that’s going on right now.  It piqued my interest because it’s a topic I studied very generally in school, and so it’s neat to have a specific case study that I can follow as it happens.  Also, a family member of mine works for the foreign company that’s made out to be the bad guy in this story.

So what happened?

Basically it started with an Indigenous peoples’ network called FENEMAD saying that Hunt Oil and Repsol-YPF were exploring for oil on land that didn’t belong to them:

Local indigenous organisation FENAMAD has filed a lawsuit asking for an injunction to be placed on both the companies’ activities. The suit argues that the government did not consult with local people before giving the companies permission to work there, as is required under international law, and oil exploration would violate local peoples’ fundamental human rights to ‘enjoy a balanced environment’.

Hunt and Repsol-YPF own the rights to explore in an area known as ‘Lot 76’, which includes land belonging to the Yine, Matsigenka and Harakmbut tribes. At the heart of the Lot is the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, used by many villages in the region and the source of six rivers that are the only fresh water supply for an estimated ten thousand people.

‘FENAMAD hopes that this legal action will paralyze any activity inside the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, as otherwise the very existence of Madre de Dios’s indigenous peoples would be put at risk,’ saidFENAMAD spokesperson Jaime Corisepa.

However, apparently Hunt Oil is trying to give back to the communities:

Hunt Oil is allegedly offering to build them schools, health centers and to install public telephones, but the natives have not accepted, since the block 76 granted by the state overlaps almost entirely on their reservation.

To make matters worse, Hunt is being accused of trying to divide the people of the area:

Reportedly, Hunt Oil Company is trying to divide the people in the territory, and to negotiate their settlement in the area by making individual offers to each community.

So as a result, the native peoples are protesting:

Native Federation of Madre de Dios River (Fenamad) announced that they are organizing a massive sit-down, asking for talks with officials from US based Hunt Oil Co., in order to demand them to leave their territories.

According to FENAMAD, an indigenous organisation in south-east Peru, at least two hundred people have gathered in a small town called Salvación, which acts as Hunt’s base in the region.

A few days later, I found this article:

The natives, who are starting a sit-down protest in front of the Hunt Oil camp,  claim that the company is already working within the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, and have announced their will to talk only with the owners of the Hunt Oil, “the ones who really make decisions.”

So what is really going on here?  It looks an awful lot like the big company is picking on the little guy.  But what if that’s not the whole story?  For example, in Bolivia it is illegal, but very easy and highly lucrative, to grow coca plants.  Often Bolivians would grow random legal crops on the outsides of their farm and hide a patch of coca in the middle, hiding it from the authorities.  What if something similar is going on here, for example, illegal mining activities going on in the region that Hunt Oil has the rights to, and they just don’t want Hunt Oil bringing in the government and shutting them down.

There’s also an element of the American company taking advantage of the less powerful government, perhaps “bullying” them into granting them a license.  But this doesn’t just happen in Peru, it also happens in Canada.  In Kingston, even.


  1. Sounds like a water rights issue.

  2. […] it was referring to.  The reorganization of informal mining activities?  That sounds a lot like a topic I wrote about a while ago.  And why would they want the Environmental Minister to be […]


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