“Report on the Case of Canaan de Cachiyacu and the Oil Company Maple Gas Corp.” August 2005
The purpose of this report is to document the experience of the Shipibo-Conibo people of Canaan de Cachiyacu en the Loreto region (of Peru) in their struggle with the American oil company Maple Gas Corporation.
2. The Territory
In 1958, oil was discovered in the Maquia field, which led to the exploitation of crude in that area by the national company PetroPeru. In 1993, the US company Maple Gas entered a contract for Lot 31B with PetroPeru. The Lot covers 62,500 hectares and produces approximately 293 barrels per day, according to the company, or 240 barrel a day according to national statistics.
3. Environmental, Social and Cultural Impacts
Maple Gas has caused serious environmental, social and cultural contamination. According to a study by EarthRights International…the waters of the Cachiyacu River, which is used by the community, has rainbow colored reflections and a smell of hydrocarbons…which indicates it is not appropriate for human consumption.
The study also indicates that…the company has behaved badly toward the villagers and in particular has shown a lack of respect toward the women. The interviews and declarations by the local population indicate that Maple workers are responsible for sexual abuse against women in the community.
In addition, the community is prohibited by the company from planting in their own territory, which is a violation of their rights under Peruvian and international law. This has resulted in changes in eating habits, since the villagers have to either change their crops or buy more from Contamana [the nearest town]. This means more dependence on cash and therefore day labor. This is an example of a vicious cycle of dependence on the western world, its cash-based system and consumption habits, which in turn may cause a distancing from the Shipibo culture by the current generation. Loss of culture means cultural extinction. In this case the company Maple Gas is responsible for this social transformation.
The EarthRights International study clearly shows that the company’s presence has a negative impact on nutrition. This is because of a reduction in cultivated areas, disappearance and decline of fish, decline of hunting, and the poisoning and death of domestic animals.
The health problems are likewise very troubling. A high percentage of the population suffers from pneumonia and diarrhea. There are many cases of sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea, which is foreign to the Shipibo-Conibo. The death of several individuals suffering from abdominal pains is perhaps the most alarming, for a group that has no history of such ailments. There are a large number of people suffering stomach pain and headaches, symptoms that are common in areas of oil contamination in Ecuador.
The company must remediate and restore the affected ecosytems. It must also compensate the community for the use of its territory, and for the social, cultural, health and environmental impacts…
4. The Beginning of Dialogue
In 2004, faced with a growth in abnormal deaths and illnesses of the local population of Canaan, attributed to oil contamination, the residents decided to begin a process of negotiation with the Maple Gas company, with the purpose of gaining respect for their rights. Several meetings took place between representatives of the community and executives of the company.
On January 8-9, 2005, a consultation took place in which the representative of Maple and the head of public relations promised to assist the community in various ways. The agreements and promises made at that meeting we not kept and the demands of the community were not heard. In April, the company refused to sign any agreements, which was a clear indication to the community that Maple was not willing to dialogue nor make commitments, let alone take responsibility for environmental contamination or respect for indigenous rights…
5. The Occupation of the Wells
These events led the community of Canaan to take the peaceful but decisive action, of taking over nine of the 26 Maple oil wells, and closing their valves, on July 8, 2005. Some 80 community members, carrying traditional arms such as arrows, machetes and spears, built temporary camps near the wells and closed the roads that led to them. Although the occupation was peaceful, as is the Shipibo culture historically, some of the people were armed as a strong cultural symbol, rather than a real threat of physical violence.
The Director General Guillermo Ferreyros said that there was no harm to the installations… The occupied wells produced 80 barrels per day, valued at $60 each. Ferreyros said that the occupation had not produced anything tragic, but recognized that Maple was losing 80 of the 270 barrels it produced per day.
Ferreyros said that it is the state’s responsibility to have greater presence in the country and attend to the basic necessities of the communities. “Maple pays its [rent] to the state, which is over a million dollars annually,” he said. Regarding environmental impacts, Ferreyros denied any problem and indicated that the positive part of the conflict was the re-initiation of dialogue between the community and the state “which had been suspended by the government.”…
6. Agreement of July 10, 2005
After the takeover of the wells on July 8th, a dialogue began between community representatives and those from Perupetro, Maple Gas, and the regional and local governments. The first day, they could not begin negotiations because the area is remote. On July 10th, the delegation arrived…[We] had been seeking dialogue with the company for more than a year, which had not resulted in any action nor improvement by the company. [We] hoped that in this meeting, the presence of the State would help achieve concrete agreements to end the contamination and violations of indigenous rights.
Present at the meeting were:
From Contamana, the police assured calm during the negotiations. There were six police officers from Contamana, Mayor Rodolfo Zevallos Espejo, and security personnel from the company….
The July 10 agreement consists of the following points:
-Opening of the meeting
-Community Chief Humberto Sanches Rios introduced four points as a platform for discussion: use of land, protection of health and protection of environment [?]
-The Regional President asked that the state authorities do a study to delineate the borders of the community and the company…
-There was agreement to carry out the fieldwork on July 12th
-Regarding water samples, it was agrees that it would be with participation of the Ministry of Energy and Mines Directorate of Environmental and Energy.
-July 25 at 10 AM was agreed for a subsequent meeting and a delegation was named for that meeting.
-The company agreed to submit a community relations plan
-The July 25th meeting was to be held in the Canaan de Cachiyacu community
-Maple Gas requested and end to the occupation of the nine wells.
With this agreement, the Shipibos decided to end the occupation of the nine wells.
7. Failure to Implement the Agreement and Second Occupation of the Wells
After these supposed advances in negotiations and agreements between the community and the company, the Shipibos found themselves still with an unresolved problem. The agreements were not adhered to, and in one specific case, the problem worsened.
Point 3 of the agreement, which stated the Regional President would work on delineation of the borders between the community and the company. This request was important, given that the community has had title to its land for 30 years. Moreover, this had not been a point of contention between the parties. PETT came to carry out the work, but only complicated the situation. With technical personnel, who, according to outside experts, were not familiar with the new equipment, they marked the territory in favor of the company. This confusion by PETT only caused additional anguish for the indigenous people….
In addition to the negative strategy of PETT, which created a feeling of tension and ill will, other agreements were likewise not implemented. The water sampling program that was to have been done together with AIDESEP did not take place; and the company and AIDESEP did separate environmental studies…These studies were not share until the meeting on July 25-26.
In view of the failure to implement the agreements, the community of Canaan decided to re-occupy the nine Maple wells on July 18th. The community decided not to wait until the July 25th meeting as agreed, and thus also broke the agreement. In this takeover, the neighboring community of Sucre joined united with Canaan. The camp grew to include two control points, which blocked four entry points. Some 600 people participated, including mothers, children, youth and grandparents. This struggle was not limited a matter of men armed with arrows. Absolutely the entire community united in solidarity and established a temporary camp at Well 26.
A delegation of AIDESEP and ORAU arrived at Contamana on July 21st, for the purpose of supporting their brothers in Canaan and offering legal and other advice…
From [July] 21st, members of AIDESEP, ORAU and FECONBU had been meeting daily to discuss strategies, to hear the legal advice of Vladimir Pinto of Racimos de Ungurahui, to coordinate and establish mechanisms for dialogue.
During this time, other allies wishing to show their support arrived, including Miguel Hilario, Humberto Sampayo of ORDIM, Juan Chaves, and the Shipibo representative in the Provincial Government of Ucayali. These leaders showed their support and Miguel Hilario committed to communicate to the President of the Republic and other authorities in Lima with decision-making power, as requested by the community.
8. July 25-26 – Dialogue, Demands and New Agreements
The notes of the first meeting on July 25th taken by Robert Guimaraes of ORAU, and are available in Spanish [link to 8 in Spanish version]. Interesting comments from the Regional President of Loreto are also included in the Spanish version.
9. Meeting between Canaan and Maple
The full meeting between Canaan and Maple began at 8:30 PM on the July 25th and broke at about 3:30 in the morning. At 6 AM the agreements were read and they signed at about 10 AM.
9.1. Official Agreement of the Meeting
In the city of Contamana, capital of the Ucayali Province, Region of Loreto, in the municipal building, at 9:30 AM there was a meeting of the Maple Gas Corporation of Peru, represented by its General Manager, Mr. Guillermo Ferreyros, the Native Community Canaan, represented by its apu (traditional chief), Mr. Humberto Sanchez, and a delegation of eight community residents, the Regional President of Loreto, Mr. Robinson Rivadeneira, the Mayor of Ucayali Province, Mr. Allan Ruiz, Mr. Pedro Touzett, representing the Hydrocarbons Section of MINEM, Mr. Jose Chavez, General Manager and Mr. Jorge Arnao Arana, chief of the Environmental Protection Division of PERUPETRO, Mr. Isaac Lavado, representing DIGESA, Carlos Cabrera Garcia, Supervisor of OSINBERG and indigenous leaders Javier Macedo, President of FECONBU, Robert Guimaraes, President of ORAU, Julio Cusurichi, national rep. of AIDESEP and Mr. Edilberto Kinin, representing INDEPA. The meeting was moderated by Margot Quispe, Commissioner of the Public Advocate of Ucayali.
The purpose of the meeting is to find solutions relating to the demands of the community of Canaan regarding social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts caused by hydrocarbon activities in its territory.
The President of the Community of Canaan expresses the desire of the community to see the company resolve these demands which have been repeatedly presented in various meetings and consist of1. Respect for territory and compensation for the use of native lands; 2. Environment; 3. Health; y 4. Community Relations.
Territory and Use of Lands
The Community Chief noted that for more than 30 years [the company has used] communal territory, PetroPeru as well as Maple) without consultation. There are roads, nine oil wells, wood has been cut and for this the community demands due respect and solutions. The representatives of the community explained that their rights are supported by ILO Convention 169, ratified by Peru
…[A report from PETT was read revealing disagreement in the community regarding methodology used by PETT for demarcation of the territory.
The Regional President requested that the community express its point of view regarding procedures to finalize the demarcation.
One community representative asked the this point be put aside, given that the borders were not under discussion and the ancestral territory and title should be respected.
…The representative of MINEM, Pedro Touzett, indicated that there is a legal procedure for establishing compensation for the use of land for hydrocarbon production. That procedure is that both parties work together voluntarily. If there is no agreement, the State intervenes.
The Regional President requested that the community propose a sum its demands for use of its lands.
The proposal of the community is that the compensation be determined including the 10 years of previous operations…and until the end of Maple’s contract.
The representative of Maple said that it respects the legal precedent and is willing to meet all its legal obligations to the community. He clarified that the Lot is marginal, that it produced very little and is nearly spent. He noted that the installations and roads were already constructed when they took possession and they had only done repair work. He suggested forming a committee to resolve this point.
After discussion…a committee was formed of eight people, four from the community and four from the company. This committee has the purpose of verifying the areas used and occupied by the company in titled communal territory, and establish the compensation for the use of the land.
Both parties requested that the Public Advocate attend meetings of the committee, to which she agreed.
Health and Environment
The representatives of the communities expressed their claims regarding the health situation. They noted that Petroperu has produced pollution since the beginning of activities and there are witnesses to illnesses and deaths, presumably caused by consumption of contaminated water and fish.
At this point the President of ORAU read some of the results of the study carried out by EarthRights International, which documents pollution and the Cachiyacu River…
The moderator requested the report from Iris Cardenas regarding the work of the Commission created on July 10th. That commission carried out water sampling in certain spots identified by the community. The sampling was carried out with the participation of ORAU and members of the community, with DIGESA ion charge. OSINERG and NATURA also took samples, at the request of Maple Gas.
The representative of DIGESA explained the process, norms and indicators of their report, and then noted that the results of the hydrocarbon analysis of July 15th were below 0.2 mgl. Taking Ecuadorian legislation as a reference (because Peru has no relevant standards), the limit is 0.5 mgl, for cold fresh water. He also noted that they analyzed for mercury, lead and copper, and that these were below the limits of national legislation.
The DIGESA representative noted that the analysis only pertains to conditions on July 15th, and cannot measure earlier conditions regarding turbidity or contamination. He clarified that DIGESA plans to follow up with periodic analysis, which will clarify the claims of the community.
At this point the representatives of the community intervened and insisted that the pollution is obvious in the River Cachiyacu, to the point where it does not need to be analyzed technically, since it is clear from the odor of water and fish…they also noted that the production waters around the wells overflow during rainy season, as do various pools around old pipelines, and that all the overflow goes into the Cachiyacu. This had not been taken into account by DIGESA, since it was not the rainy season.
The representative of FECONBU intevened saying that photos and video which showed contamination. He explained that the company had recently cleaned its wells, when Osinerg came and had fixed up trails and painted the wells after a visit from FECONBU, ORAU and ERI.
The General Manager of Maple said that his firm has good environmental practices, reinjecting 100% of its production waters, something that no other firm in Peru does. In reply, one villager read the OSINEERG report from October 2004, which states that the company does not comply with PAMA and discharges production waters in a place not approved on that document.
The Regional President intervened and indicated that he personally has seen the area and the presence of muds with a petroleum odor is clearly evident. He requested that the community or ORAY propose a firm specializing in independent environmental study…That study would be paid for by the regional government…
The representatives of both parties agreed to the proposal, with ORAU in charge of selecting the firm to carry out the study.
Regarding health, the group accepted the initiative of the Public Advocate regarding an epidemiological study of Canaan, complemented by ASIS, with the support of MINSA by the Regional Government. MINSA will take on the analysis of blood, nails and hair, to identify long term impacts.
MINEM and the company will train the villagers to assist in environmental monitoring.
The representatives of the community noted that the company has never had good relations with Canaan, and in fact this aspect was worse than with Petroperu.
The claims of the community include abuse by workers of women (including abandonment of children resulting from these relationships); buying but not paying for products, verbal and psychological mistreatment of indigenous personnel that work occasionally for the firm. In particular, Sr. Hugo Villavicencio has a despotic and disrespectful attitude toward the indigenous residents. The personnel of the company were not in a position to treat indigenous people well because they were not even minimally aware of their customs.
Representatives of the community indicated that the company had not offered any support or benefit to Canaan, they showed no social solidarity nor will to commit to development of the area from which they are extracting resources and generating environmental impacts.
The Manager of the company noted that in principle he would not permit ill treatment of people and requested proof of the accusations…
He explained that the purchase of agricultural products was not done by Maple, but by a contractor…
A representative of the firm presented its Community Relations Plan, approved last July.
That plan presents a series of social works that the firm ahs carried out in Pucallpa and other areas, along with a series of offers regarding production projects for Canaan such as duck raising…
The Regional President, the indigenous leaders and residents expressed their dissatisfaction with the contents of the Community Relations Plan, which showed that they had never worked in a concrete way with Canaan, let alone with a intercultural perspective. They are not aware of the reality, the problems, nor the mores [of the community].
It agreed that the Plan should be reformulated with the community and the firm. Specialists will also be brought it in…A first workshop will take place in August, coordinated by the Chief of the community.
The company promised its support with 10 computers for the community, as part of their community relations. For his part, the Regional President promised to invest in bringing drinkable water to the community by the end of the year.
Native Community of Sucre
The representatives of the Native Community of Sucre informed the group about its problems regarding use of land and contamination of the environment, very similar to those of Canaan. Sucre is within Lot 31-B and the exploitation in its territory is the same as before and with the same impacts.
Since this point was not on the original agenda, the group agreed to an evaluation of the topic…
The Ministry of Energy and Mines and Perupetro, will [monitor] the compliance with the agreements contained in this document and the Public Advocate will supervise compliance as well. The Regional Government
10. The Way Forward
With the experiences of Canaan de Cachiyacu and Sucre in the last month, we now find ourselves in a new stage. This meeting should be considered a success, because we had discussions with the company, the demands of the community were heard and taken seriously, and the State seems committed to defend indigenous rights.
It will be necessary to work for implementation of the agreements. We shouldn’t have to go back to occupying wells, though this remains a last resort…It will be necessary to develop methods of communication and pressure strategies…Our demands have been heard, though for this community this might mean little considering how serious have been the violations…
The company must do its part and comply with the agreements. In addition, they should be sensitized and pressured to take environmental and social responsibility, sensitized to interculturality, participation and consultation, to Convention 169, and in this way achieve a new space for dialogue, and, within what is possible, achieve a harmonious co-existence with the community.
Hasta que se pueda llegar al punto histórico que los recursos naturales dentro de territorio indígena realmente les pertenezcan y no al Estado, hasta que se pueda llegar a que las comunidades indígenas tengan poder de veto dentro de la ley nacional como internacional y así el poder de decisión sobre el uso de sus tierras a no ser explotadas irresponsablemente, hasta que se pueda llegar al punto que los pueblos indígenas estén en control de su futuro así como de su pasado, es necesario seguir promoviendo el dialogo, la participación y hacer que sus demandas y derechos sean respetados.
Until we can get to the historic moment when natural resources within indigenous territory really belong to the people rather than the State, until indigenous communities have the power of veto, within national and international legislation, and thus take have decision-making power of theuse of their land to avoid irresponsible expoitation, until we arrive at the point where indigenous people are in control of their future as it was in the past, it is necessary to continue with dialogue and participation, and see to it that their demands and rights are respected.
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