Major victory for indigenous groups in Ecuadorian Amazon

Chinese company pulls out of contract to drill for oil in remote rainforest after protests by indigenous groups

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 07 November 2019

Indigenous leaders from Ecuador’s Amazon declared victory on November 6, 2019, after revealing that the country’s government had granted a force majeure request by Andes Petroleum Ltd Ecuador to stop drilling in a rainforest concession known as Block 79.

Ecuador's Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources had issued a resolution on October 10, 2019, granting the  force majeure request due to the ‘resistance and social and political opposition’ of Sapara and Kichwa indigenous peoples potentially affected by the project.

The leaders’ press conference on November 6 was the first time the information was made public.

“The declaration by the government of force majeure in Block 79 is a result of our fight, and it was forced to recognise that these territories are ours, we live there. We are asking the government to remove all oil concessions from our territories. We will remain vigilant,” Yanda Montahuano, a leader of the Sapara Nation, was quoted as saying in a press statement by non-profit Amazon Watch.

Lineth Calapucha, vice-president of Kichwa Nationality of Pastaza added: “We don't want extraction in our territories.”

A force majeure is an unforeseeable circumstance that prevents someone from fulfilling a contract.

The decision by Andes Petroleum Ltd, a Chinese joint venture by CNPC (China National Petroleum Company) and Sinopec (China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation) to seek the force majeure declaration comes four years after it signed a contract to conduct seismic testing and drill one exploratory well within the 158,000-hectare block.

Protests by the Sapara and Kichwa at jungle airstrips that prevented planes from accessing the remote block, along with legal action and pressure on Chinese embassies prevented the company from carrying out its work, the statement said.

The company's departure is significant as China is Ecuador's largest creditor, the statement said. 

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