Petrolifera: Uncontacted Tribe Unaffected by Seismic Work

Petrolifera Petroleum reported that its seismic program on Block 107 in the Ucayali Basin, onshore Peru, is not "infringing on reclusive members of the Cacataibo tribe … of the region," contrary to recent press coverage.

One news release, dated Dec. 19, claims that the "uncontacted tribe" is "trapped in a shrinking patch of rainforest." This report says that the tribe is the last uncontacted tribe in the central Peruvian rainforest, stating, "a Canadian oil company, Petrolifera, is set to penetrate their last refuge."

The news release issued by Petrolifera on Feb. 20 stated, "During late January 2008, a member of the survey crew employed by the geophysical contractor being utilized by Petrolifera Petroleum del Peru SAC, the company's Peruvian subsidiary, noticed certain markings on a tree in proximity to where activity was being conducted. In accordance with the company's protocol, the sighting was immediately reported to the company's Lima office and it was also immediately brought to the attention of an anthropologist contracted by Petrolifera to deal with matters of this nature.

"It should be noted that there were no other elements - fire remains, human signs, or materials - in evidence at the time of the sighting or in the vicinity of the sighting, nor have there been subsequent thereto."

Petrolifera stated that the marks on the tree have been evaluated by a "competent authority," and it is "impossible to deduce that the marks were made by the isolated indigenous Cacataibo tribe members. The analysis provided to Petrolifera also states that this occurrence should be viewed as an isolated event and in the absence of other evidence, there is insufficient evidence to suggest any proof of the presence of the isolated Cacataibos."

Petrolifera went on to state through the release that the data from the analysis has been given to the authorities. A "scouting trip" has been carried out, and Petrolifera says it has "established and is maintaining a sound relationship" with the Cacataibo tribe. As such, the exploratory program is proceeding as scheduled.

Petrolifera says it has started employing local indigenous people to help out with the development of the Peruvian project.

In December, the Federation of Indigenous Cacataibo Communities, the Peruvian NGO Instituto del Bien Comun, and the Center for International Environmental Law, with the support of the Asociacion Interetnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana, have requested that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights protect the Cacataibo tribe from encounters with Petrolifera devices, workers, or encroachment on Cacataibo territory. The effort to block Petrolifera from 140,000 hectares where the tribe exists included 1.2 million square hectares area Petrolifera claimed to have exploration rights.

"The initiation of the program followed a series of workshops and community meetings with all indigenous people in the area covered by block 107 and the approval of an extensive and thorough Environmental Impact Assessment or EIA prior to the initiation of activity," Petrolifera stated in the press release.

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