Calgary-based Parex Resources Inc. seeks to frack in Colombia amid human rights concerns

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Colombian human rights defenders from CREDHOS and CCALCP raise concerns about fracking at a public forum in Vancouver on November 6. Fracking pilot projects are expected to begin in Colombia next year.

Earlier this year, Reuters reported, “At least five companies are interested in six fracking blocs in Colombia…” In that article, Colombian Mines and Energy Minister Maria Fernanda Suarez named Parex as one of the companies interested in the fracking blocs.

Rigzone further confirms, “Leading energy firms with fracking expertise including ExxonMobil, Conoco Phillips, Parex and Ecopetrol have expressed their interest in starting pilot fracking projects” in Colombia.

Parex Resources Inc. is a Calgary-based company.

The Parex website notes, “Parex Resources Inc. is actively engaged in crude oil exploration, development, and production in Colombia.”

That website also highlights, “Parex holds interests in approximately 2.3 million gross acres over 23 onshore blocks in Colombia’s Llanos and Magdalena Basins.”

In July 2017, Oscar Sampayo from the Environmental and Extractive Studies Group in Magdalena Medio noted in this interview with Justin Podur, “What worries us is that in 2014 Parex directly entered Magdalena Medio in block VMM9. This block is located in the municipality of Simitarra in Santander. That block is destined for the development of a nonconventional deposit using fracking.”

Simitarra is located about 115 kilometres south-west of Barrancabermeja and about 200 kilometres south-west of Bucaramanga, both cities are situated in Santander Department in north-central Colombia.

Social genocide

Between January 1, 2016 and July 20, 2019, 738 social leaders have been killed in Colombia. In 2018 alone, 126 human rights defenders, including 24 land and environmental defenders, were murdered. This has been described as a “social genocide”.

Given deep public opposition to fracking, its environmental impacts (including water depletion and pollution), the community divisions that can result when scarce jobs are promised, and ongoing violence by armed actors, there are serious concerns about the potential of additional deaths and injuries for those opposed to fracking.

Voices at Risk

The Global Affairs publication Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders provides direction to Canadian embassies.

It states, “All sections of Canadian missions abroad can advocate in support of human rights defenders working on land and environmental issues.”

It should seek to prevent what happened in April 2013 in Guatemala.

At that time, opponents of the Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources Inc. Escobal silver mine near San Rafael Las Flores gathered at the mine’s entrance to protest the lack of community consultation on the project.

As noted in this July 2019 media release, “The head of security for the mine, Alberto Rotondo, ordered security personnel to break up the demonstration by shooting at the protestors. Several were injured, one very seriously.”

This example of the violation of the right to protest and violence against community members must not be repeated.

Voices at Risk also highlights, “Canadian companies operating abroad are expected to respect human rights and to operate lawfully and in consultation with the host government (national and municipal) and local communities.”

Growing concern

There is already reason for concern with fracking.

Environmentalists have called for a global ban on fracking given it “torpedoes our global efforts to tackle climate change and violates basic human rights.”

Moreover, a researcher with the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment has highlighted concerns that fracking could endanger the fragile peace process in Colombia.

Peace Brigades International-Canada continues to monitor this situation.

Further reading: What Canadian companies might be involved in fracking in Colombia?

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