Amazon Communities Break Off Negotiations With Maple Energy Over Six Oil Spills

Amazon Communities Break Off Negotiations With Maple Energy Over Six Oil Spills

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August 26, 2011

Two Shipibo communites in the Peurvian Amazon have broken off negotiations with Maple Gas Corporation del Peru SRL., over the health and environmental impacts of six oil spills on their territory over the past three years. The move comes just one month after 32 Shipibo were forced to clean up one of the spills with their bare hands.

The Shipibo communities of Nuevo Sucre and Canaán de Cachiyacu officially terminated the negotiations on August 11, after it became clear that Maple Gas, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Ireland-based company Maple Energy plc (MPLE), would not act in good faith or take responsibility for any of the devastating spills.

“Maple has denied the problems with contamination and sickness resulting from their operations on our land and refused our requests for environmental remediation and medical treatment,” said Raul Tuesta, leader of the Shipibo community of Nuevo Sucre.

The two communities had asked Maple Energy to cover the costs of studies to determine the level of contamination and the health problems affecting some community members, including children. They also asked the company to pay for potable water and food until the safety of their water resources could be confirmed. The company rejected all three requests.

“The termination of negotiations comes just a month after the death of Luis Saldaña, a resident of Nuevo Sucre who endured severe stomach pain after he was forced by Maple to assist in the cleanup of a Maple oil spill in April 2009 without any protective equipment,” says the Accountabiliy Counsel, a California-based organization that’s advising the two communities. “Days after his death on July 10, 2011, as Mr. Saldaña was being buried, another Maple oil spill occurred in Nuevo Sucre. Maple again hired men from the community to clean up the spill without protective equipment, training or any warnings of the health impacts of hydrocarbon exposure.”

In this video, taken by an Attorney employed by the Accountabiliy Counsel, you can see one of the 32 men that Maple Energy hired, using a plastic bottle and a bucket to clean up the spill. The man is standing beside a barrier made of nothing more than branches and leaves. Other videos available here).

“No one has been able to give us an answer as to why Maple directed these men to work directly in the petroleum with bare hands, legs, and feet. We are very worried about what impacts this will have on their health,” said Raul Tuesta. “We are very concerned about the health of the workers cleaning the spill, our children who play and drink from the Mashiria daily, and all the members of our community that survive on this water.”

In fact, the Shipibo only learned about the spill when children who were bathing on the banks of the Mashiria River saw some oil in the water. Maple Energy didn’t tell anyone that a pipeline had ruptured.

The negotiations may now be over; but with their health and food security on the line, the Shipibo have no intention of giving up. “[They are now] looking to the recently elected government of Ollanta Humala to defend their rights and protect their environment,” says the Accountabiliy Counsel. The Government has already agreed to set up a multi-sectoral commission to investigate the spills (Read: the Meeting Minutes summarizing the August 16, 2011 discussion with government representatives who committing to working with the communities).

The Accountability Counsel, the International Accountability Project and two Peruvian indigenous federations, ORAU and FECONBU, are also continuing with their human rights and environmental complaint, which they filed in April 2010 on behalf of the Shipibo communities. In 2007 the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) gave Maple Ennergy $40 million US dollars to expand its oil operations in the Amazon.

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