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ConocoPhillips Warned Amazon Operations Could Kill Off Isolated Indigenous Communities

(EMAILWIRE.COM, May 17, 2008 ) Houston, Texas – ConocoPhillips senior management came under increasing pressure today at the Houston-based oil major’s annual shareholder meeting as environmental and human rights campaigners warned that its Peru plans could lead to the extinction of some of the Amazon basin’s last surviving indigenous groups still living in isolation.

ConocoPhillips’ current Amazon holdings, including interests in six concessions totaling 12 million acres in Peru, are larger than any other company’s. Two concessions, known as “block 39” (which ConocoPhillips holds jointly with Spain’s Repsol) and “blocks 104” overlap the proposed Napo Tigre Territorial Reserve, being set up specifically to protect four isolated indigenous groups ¬— the Abijiras, Taromenane, Arabela and Pananujuri. Block 104 also intrudes on the existing Pucacuro Reserve Zone.

Human rights attorney, Lily la Torre, Executive Director of Peruvian indigenous rights organization Racimos de Ungurahui, told the meeting that exposure to ConocoPhillips workers could prove fatal to isolated peoples who have little or no immunity to common illnesses. “The most grave aspect of Conoco’s holdings in Peru is that they operating in areas where indigenous peoples live in voluntary isolation and this could cause those peoples epidemics and death,” she said.

Some shareholders also expressed strong concerns about ConocoPhillips’ apparent disregard for indigenous rights and the environment, as well as the company’s potential to harm its reputation. Steven Heim, Social Research Director, of Boston Common Asset Management, told the meeting ConocoPhillips also risked violating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, of which Peru is a signatory, and which calls for the protection of the cultures and lands of indigenous peoples.

Mr Heim said: “Contact through oil exploration could lead to their extinction. While Repsol YPF is the operator [in block 39], we believe this does not absolve ConocoPhillips of complicity if these peoples die off from diseases passed on by oil workers or conflict occurs.”

The environmental and human rights groups also warned that ConocoPhillips’ plans to expand into the Amazon also belied the company’s claims to be concerned about global warming. Roughly 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation, a problem that will only be exacerbated with more oil drilling in pristine tropical rainforest ecosystems. In particular, roads built as part of oil operations will leave the rainforest vulnerable to colonization, logging, poaching, fishing and other informal extractive activities.

In June last year, Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines rejected two environmental impact assessments submitted by Repsol for block 39 because they failed to address the health impacts on isolated indigenous peoples.

Amazon Watch campaigner Mitch Anderson added: “If ConocoPhillips wants to be seen as a responsible corporate citizen, it must urgently adopt global policies that would require it to avoid highly ecologically sensitive areas, or places where isolated indigenous people are found. It must also adopt the international human rights benchmark of requiring free, prior, and informed consent [FPIC] from any indigenous community that would be affected by its operations.”

For background on ConocoPhillips’ Amazon oil operations, visit


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