13 February 2015, News Wires – Peru will evaluate a natural gas contract it signed with Pluspetrol in 2005 and is asking the Argentine company to leave a restive Amazonian town following deadly protests there, according to reports.
Pluspetrol started exploratory activities in gas-prone Block 108 last year, upsetting locals in the town of Pichanaki who fear it will lead to pollution and hurt farming.
Energy & Mines Minister Eleodoro Mayorga said he believes the company has complied with its contract for developing Block 108 but that the government must make sure.
“That contract must be evaluated,” Mayorga said on state television from Pichanaki, according to a Reuters report.
Pichanak is located in Peru’s Amazonian region of Junin.
“I would like to know about advances that have been made, and if they’ve been made with all the permits this type of work requires,” Mayorga reportedly said.
Mayorga travelled to Pichanaki to calm tensions after street protests against the company left one young man dead and dozens injured on Tuesday.
The Interior Ministry said it is investigating the illegal use of firearms by police personnel during the demonstrations.
Pluspetrol said in a statement by Reuters that it has met all legal, environmental and social requirements for exploratory work in Block 108, including more than 2000 agreements with farmers and communities.
Protesters in Pichanaki have called for Pluspetrol’s departure, a demand that Mayorga said he would try to fulfill.
“I’m going to ask the company to leave Pichanaki within three days, the time it needs to go and take everything it has brought,” Mayorga told cheering crowds in a televised speech.
Pluspetrol said it would remove its remaining equipment from Pichanaki in coming days, provided it is safe enough to do so.
Protesters vandalised and looted a storage unit used by Pluspetrol on military land in Pichanaki on Tuesday, the army said.
The government of President Ollanta Humala, a former leftist military officer who turned to the right upon election in 2011, okayed Pluspetrol’s environmental study for Block 108 in 2013.
The concession is expected to hold significant reserves of natural gas.
Pluspetrol is also struggling to end conflicts in Peru’s northern Amazon, where indigenous protesters have taken control of oil wells and halted 3100 barrels of output per day in the country’s biggest oil block.
Pluspetrol also leads a consortium that operates Peru’s biggest natural gas field, known as Camisea.