Over the course of 30 years of operations in indigenous Achuar territory in the Corrientes River Basin of the Peruvian Amazon, Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy) knowingly engaged in destructive practices which severely contaminated unique and sensitive ecosystems and caused profound impacts upon the rights and health of the communities living there.
In March 2006, the Federation of Native Communities of the Corrientes River (FECONACO) asked EarthRights International (ERI) to undertake a mission to the Corrientes River basin in the northeastern Peruvian Amazon to investigate the social, environmental, and human rights impacts of more than 30 years of petroleum production activities.
This request was specifically in response to a decision taken by an assembly of indigenous Achuar communities in the Peruvian Amazon affected by petroleum operations. From May 14-23, 2006, a multinational, multidisciplinary team comprised of a doctor and nurse who specialize in community medicine, an agronomist, an environmental engineer, a chemist, one Peruvian and two U.S. attorneys, and two interviewer-interpreters visited the Corrientes River basin.
Collaborating with ERI on the mission were Peru-based Racimos de Ungurahui and US-based Amazon Watch (AW.) The investigative mission visited five Achuar communities in and downriver from an oil concession known as “Block 1AB,” where U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum Corporation operated for 30 years. The team met with a community assembly in each community, interviewed over 60 individuals about the oil operations and, with the consent of the participating community members, took medical histories and diagnostic medical examinations, including field testing for lead concentrations in the blood. Members of the team also analyzed water and sediment samples and inspected several former and current areas of oil production. The findings of the mission were compiled in a report released last week, entitled A Legacy of Harm. (See pictures from the press conference.) In addition to summarizing the impacts of Occidental's activities in the region, the report also provides a legal analysis showing how Oxy’s cost-cutting and deliberate use of substandard technology exposes it to civil demands from the Achuar, both in Peru and the United States. (Learn more about the lawsuit.)
The report's findings conclude:
Oxy dumped an average of 850,000 barrels per day of toxic oil by-products directly into rivers and streams used by the Achuar for drinking, bathing, washing, and fishing.
Oxy used earthen pits, prohibited by U.S. standards, to store drilling fluids, crude oil, and crude by-products. These pits, dug directly into the ground, were open, unlined, and routinely overflowed onto the ground and into surface waters, leaching into the surrounding soil and groundwater
Oxy violated several international rights norms – including several in the American Convention on Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights – in its actions on Achuar territory, including the right to life, the right to health, the right to a healthy environment, and indigenous people’s rights.
Oxy violated Peru’s General Water Law and General Health Law, as well as environmental statutes meant to be applied in the hydrocarbon sector.
EarthRights International has also signed onto a letter of concern to Peru's Ministry of Energy and Mines regarding Peru's oil block #39 and its impact on isolated indigenous peoples. Click here to read the full-text of the Spanish-language version of this letter. Recently, REPSOL, the company that plans to build on the afore-mentioned plot responded with this statement.
Reuters: Indigenous Peru Group Threatens to Sue Occidental
Inter Press Service News Agency: Oxy Faces Lawsuit Threat Over Amazon Toxins
Venice Paper: Venice Attorney Objects to Occidental's Actions in the Amazon
Christian Science Monitor: Peru's Rainforest: Oil and Gas Run Through It
LA Business Journal: Oxy Sued Over Peruvian Drilling
Latino MSN: Grupo indígena de Perú amenaza con demandar a Occidental
Upside Down World: Amazon Communities Warn Oxy Over Toxins
Petroleum World: Oil Company Accused of Dumping Waste in Amazon
WW4Report: Peru Indigenous Warn Oxy Over Toxins
ABCMoney: Peruvian Group Suing Oxy Over Pollution
Living in Peru: Indigenous Community Sues LA-Based Occidental Petroleum
Buzzle.com: Peruvians Sue Oil Giant Over Amazon Pollution
Business & Human Rights Center
Para leer artículos en español sobre la demanda contra Oxy, hacer clic aquí.