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Company urged to withdraw from mega-concession covering 10 million acres of Amazon Rainforest

14 May 2009

Two environmental organisations, Amazon Watch and Save America’s Forests, are calling on ConocoPhillips to immediately withdrawal from a 10.5 million acre mega-concession in the Peruvian Amazon, as the groups issue a new investigative report citing serious environmental and human rights issues in the company’s Peruvian holdings. The report, entitled “ConocoPhillips in the Peruvian Amazon”, was presented to the oil company’s management and shareholders at its annual general meeting in Houston.

ompany urged to withdraw from mega-concession covering 10 million acres of Amazon Rainforest
ompany urged to withdraw from mega-concession covering 10 million acres of Amazon Rainforest

The report urges the company to implement the principles found within the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by respecting the self-determination of rainforest residents upon whose lands the company operates. The report states, “Without a straightforward promise not to work in any indigenous territory in which it has not obtained free, prior, and informed consent, ConocoPhillips risks future conflict which could imperil the company’s reputation and the financial viability of its projects in Peru.”

The report finds that ConocoPhillips holds exploration and drilling rights to five concessions covering over 10.5 million acres of pristine tropical rainforest in the Peruvian Amazon. Occupying more Amazon rainforest than any U.S. other oil company, ConocoPhillips’ “mega-concession” threatens some of the continent’s last surviving indigenous groups still living in voluntary isolation, as well as sensitive and “protected” rainforest ecosystems.

"ConocoPhillips' blocks overlap one of the most biodiverse, intact, and wettest parts of the entire Amazon Basin," said Dr. Matt Finer, staff ecologist at Save America's Forests. "This combination makes the region an area of outstanding global conservation significance, not a place for a U.S. company to search for oil."
Amazon Watch has shared the report with a coalition of ConocoPhillips’ institutional shareholders, collectively holding nearly $1 billion in ConocoPhillips’ shares, which has in the past expressed concerns to the company’s management on environmental and social issues. Steven Heim of Boston Common Asset Management and Steve Mason of Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust will be at the AGM in representation of this coalition, and will encourage ConocoPhillips to incorporate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a core operating principle.

This timely report is being released as the Peruvian government has declared a state of emergency due to nation-wide indigenous protests, including community members blocking river access to some of ConocoPhillips’ oil holdings. Peru’s Amazonian indigenous federations are calling for the revocation of a package of recent laws that violate their collective rights. Local actions have targeted oil operations as symbols of a “development” model that has been imposed on them by the Peruvian state and oil companies without their collective consent.

ConocoPhillips is already under fire for its involvement in the production of extremely carbon intensive oil sands in Canada. Compounding their oil sands holdings with the exploration blocks in pristine Amazon rainforest – the world’s largest carbon sink – ConocoPhillips’ stated commitment to “taking action on climate change” rings hollow, said Mitch Anderson, Amazon Watch’s corporate accountability campaigner.

“ConocoPhillips touts itself as providing ‘energy for the future’ yet their operations in the Amazon rainforest provide nothing but doom for the futures of indigenous communities and the Amazon rainforests. Conoco needs to rethink its drilling plans in the Amazon," stated Anderson, who is planning to confront the company's management during the AGM.

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