Colombian social leader concerned about Canadian company fracking near Puerto Patiño, Cesar

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On March 15, EFE reported, “Puerto Patiño – which faces the Doña María swamp on the Magdalena river, Colombia’s main river artery – is a candidate for a fracking project to extract oil less than a kilometer from the town center.”

The town of Puerto Patiño is located about five hours from Valledupar, the capital of the department of Cesar in northern Colombia.

“[Social leader Javier Vega] fears that the project that the Canadian oil company ConocoPhillips plans in the area will dry up the Doña María swamp, from which the fishing village has been feeding for more than fifty years and is vital to its traditions.”

While ConocoPhillips is an American-based transnational, it does have an office in Calgary and has partnered with Bogota-based CNE Oil and Gas, a subsidiary of Calgary-based Canacol Energy Ltd., to frack the VMM-3 block in northern Cesar province.

Calgary-based Parex Resources also interested in fracking

Additionally, on March 8, 2019, Reuters had reported that Colombian Mines and Energy Minister Maria Fernanda Suarez named Parex Resources as one of the companies interested in the fracking pilot projects.

Pilot projects expected to begin in second half of 2020 or 2021

Reuters adds, “[In March the government] published regulations for pilot projects that permit the drilling, fracking and measuring of non-conventional deposits. …Further rules for developing the pilot projects depend on several government ministries…”

Some news articles have reported that the pilot projects could begin in the second half of 2020, while NBC recently reported, “The industry expects regulation for fracking to be defined this year, so permits and licenses can be granted for work to start in 2021.”

Court ruling expected by July of this year

Furthermore, Reuters reported on March 11 that a ruling from the Council of State, Colombia’s highest administrative court, on the exploration of non-conventional energy deposit (fracking) could come in the next four months.

Council Magistrate Ramiro Pazos says, “The court thinks this process is sufficiently advanced and a decision will be taken in the first half of this year.”

That article explains, “The Council ordered the temporary suspension of non-conventional exploration in 2018. It upheld the moratorium last year, but after widespread misinterpretation, it was forced to clarify a week later that the suspension did not block pilot projects.”

Toronto-based Frontera Energy owns pipeline that could be used to move fracked crude

Reuters has also reported that a 236,000 barrel per day pipeline from the Magdalena Medio region to Coveñas on the Caribbean coast could “move increased crude output” if fracking is approved beyond the pilot projects.

That article notes that Frontera Energy is a minority owner of that pipeline.

Fracking and human rights

The Alliance for a Colombia Free of Fracking has stated that fracking would violate the Colombian constitutional principles that guarantee citizens the right to life, the right to water, and the right to a healthy environment.

PBI accompaniment

The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project accompanies the women’s legal collective CCALCP and the human rights organization CREDHOS.

PBI-Canada helped host a visit by representatives of those organizations in November 2019. Both CCALCP and CREDHOS highlighted their concerns to Members of Parliament and government officials about the impact of fracking on human rights.

Photo by @estefanyquincha:“This is the La Maria swamp in the Puerto Patiño district of the municipality of San Martín Cesar, it is part of the most important swamps complex in the middle Magdalena and today the implementation of the fracking pilots is threatened.”

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