Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

A straight fight between ancient beliefs and business is unfolding in Colombia where the U'wa tribesmen are threatening to commit mass suicide after a us oil firm, Occidental Petroleum Corporation (opc) , won drilling rights in their ancestral lands, reports Reuters . "We are looking at the information to see what action the community will take. Mass suicide is one option we are considering," Evaristo Tegria, a spokesman for the U'wa tribe told the news agency. After a seven-year land wrangle, Colombia's environment ministry granted a permit to opc to begin operations in the northeast Samore block, just outside the area identified for the U'wa tribe. The 209,000 hectare (ha) exploration block is tipped to harbour up to 2.5 billion barrels of crude oil, that would help ensure Colombia's energy needs well into the next millennium.

But the 5,000-member U'wa tribe insist the entire Samore block, including parts outside the government-approved reserve, was the territory of its semi-nomadic ancestors. "The community must consider how best to defend its social, cultural, territorial and political rights," Tegria added. According to the tribal belief, drilling tantamounts to sucking the lifeblood out of Earth. Occidental was originally granted an exploration contract for the Samore block in 1992 but suspended all work after carrying out just us $12 million of seismic surveying because of U'wa protests. The us multinational currently operates the 140,000 barrel per day Cano Limon field in northeast Arauca province. But based on reserve estimates Samore promises to be one of Colombia's largest-ever oil finds, possibly as big as the 440,000 barrel per day Cusiana-Cupiagua complex operated by BP Amoco in the eastern plains.

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