Complaint alleges oil company left Peru communities’ environment in ruins | Land Portal | Securing Land Rights Through Open Data
  • Indigenous communities and human rights NGOs contend that Pluspetrol violated a set of business standards issued by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
  • The complaint, delivered March 11 in the Netherlands, says the company has avoided paying taxes and has failed to address damage to the environment in the Peruvian Amazon caused by its oil-drilling activities through 2015.
  • The groups allege that the release of toxic heavy metals into the water supply have caused numerous health problems for community members.

Leaders of several indigenous communities have lodged a complaint with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, that a Netherlands-based oil company fouled the environment in Peru’s slice of the Amazon Rainforest in which they live, threatening the region’s species and sullying water sources.

The complaint also charges that the company, Pluspetrol, sought to avoid paying taxes through its convoluted ownership structure.

“We have come to the Netherlands seeking justice because there is nowhere else to go,” Aurelio Chino, the president of FEDIQUEP, said in a statement. FEDIQUEP is a Quechua community organization in northern Peru near the Pastaza River, where Pluspetrol had been operating oil wells until 2015. “We hope that here we will be treated like human beings and that the Dutch government can convince Pluspetrol to take responsibility for the terrible harm the oil industry has done to our peoples.”

The OECD has a set of standards to guide the behavior of multinational companies, though it’s nonbinding. Pluspetrol’s parent company is headquartered in Amsterdam, according to its website. But the Dutch research NGO Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, known as SOMO, contends that its presence in the Netherlands is little more than a mailing address and that it has “numerous branches in tax havens,” including Luxembourg and the Bahamas. Pluspetrol was founded in Argentina, according to news reports.

“The structure that Pluspetrol has set up is typical of the formulation that companies create in order to avoid as much tax as possible,” Jasper van Teeffelen, a researcher with SOMO, said in the statement.

The complaint maintains that such tax avoidance schemes violate OECD guidelines around transparency. It also calls attention to the environmental damage caused by the company’s activities in the 15 years it operated in the region. According to the statement, toxic metals including barium, cadmium and lead were released into the water. That dumping led to skin problems, miscarriages and diarrhea among the local population.

“Pluspetrol has to clean up its mess after fifteen years of drilling for oil,” Imke Greven, a land rights policy adviser with Oxfam Novib, said in the statement. “The health of the people there has been under threat for years and their land rights are being pushed aside.”

Oxfam Novib is the NGO Oxfam’s Dutch affiliate. It signed onto the complaint, along with OECD Watch, a civil society network.


An Achuar man with a blowgun. Image by Enrique Amigo via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

In other parts of Peru, reporting by Mongabay has linked Pluspetrol to seismic testing explosions in the buffer zone of a national park and mercury poisoning among uncontacted peoples as a result of a gas project.

OECD Watch and SOMO say the company has shirked its responsibility to restore the local environment. Mongabay’s request for comment from Pluspetrol before publication went unanswered.

The groups met with members of the Dutch parliament on March 11, and they plan to host a debate in The Hague on March 12.

“Precisely because of the impact Pluspetrol has on people and the environment in the Amazon,” SOMO’s van Teeffelen said, “it is very important that the Dutch government puts an end to these tax constructions and takes action against the company.”

Banner image of the Amazon rainforest in Peru by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay. 

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