PBI-Canada amplifies concerns raised about Toronto-based Frontera Energy in Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

Peace Brigades International-Canada is working to amplify concerns being raised by defenders, a United Nations special rapporteur and civil society about the human rights impacts of the Toronto-based oil and gas company Frontera Energy in Colombia.

San Luis de Palenque, Casanare

In his presentation to the Human Rights Council on March 4th of this year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, presented this report on his country visit to Colombia.

Forst notes (on page 9, points 29 and 30 of that report), “Social protests [took place in San Luis de Palenque, Casanare] between 2016 and 2018 in response to the failure of Canadian public company Frontera Energy to fulfil its obligation to compensate communities affected by environmental damage and to repair damaged roads.”

He highlights, “In November 2018, Frontera Energy signed two agreements with the Ministry of Defence for a total of US$1,343,106 to secure army protection for its activities.”

El Espectador adds, “On November 27, 2018, at 2:45 in the morning, an operation of 200 men, between members of the Police and the National Army, who landed in two helicopters, captured them in San Luis de Palenque.”

On February 25, Frontera Energy responded to these concerns in this 3-page statement.

Putumayo

On May 1, Amnesty International Canada noted in their Urgent Action 67/20 that human rights defender Jani Silva has “denounced the socio-environmental effects of oil operations, including those of Amerisur.”

Amnesty International then explains, “Amerisur is a hydrocarbon exploitation company operating mainly in Putumayo basins [whose partners include] Pacific Exploration & Production (Frontera Energy, Canada).”

Magdalena Valley, Antioquia

In August 2019, Reuters reported that the CEO of Oleoducto de Colombia said that the pipeline company is “ready to move increased crude output from the center of Colombia to the Caribbean if the use of fracking is approved in the Andean country.”

In that article, Frontera Energy is named as a minority owner of that pipeline.

The online journal Colombia Report has noted the historical context that when the Magdalena Valley to Coveñas oil pipeline was built by BP {British Petroleum) in 1990, its construction negatively impacted peasants in the Zaragoza region of northern Antioquia, including the destruction of 150 water sources.

Meta

In August 2015, Pacific Rubiales changed its name to Frontera Energy.

In December 2011, Colombia Reports reported, “The president of Colombian oil union USO, which has been striking over pay and conditions at Canadian-owned oil company Pacific Rubiales, said members have received death threats from paramilitaries.”

“The president of the oil workers union said union leaders had received verbal, email and pamphlet threats of death, torture, and kidnap, for their “activities” protesting conditions at Pacific Rubiales, Colombia’s largest privately-owned oil company.”

And Vice has reported, “On Dec. 4, 2013, Campo Elías Ortiz, José Dilio Naranjo, and Héctor Sánchez — political activists, members of the oil-sector union Unión Sindical Obrera, and key witnesses in a criminal suit against Colombia’s largest private oil company, Pacific Rubiales Energy — were arrested.”

“The charges against the men stemmed from a massive strike they helped organize against their former employer, Pacifico Rubiales, in the summer of 2011 in Meta, an oil-rich department in the center of the country.”

“Ortiz, Naranjo, and Sánchez stood accused of a number of charges, including conspiracy to commit a crime, blocking roads, and—most incredible of all—aggravated kidnapping and hostage-holding of hundreds of their fellow union members.”

Puerto Gaitan, Meta

In November 2018, the Above Ground report Bringing Accountability and Transparency to Export Development Canada’s Practices noted (on page 7): “Frontera (formerly Pacific E&P) received an EDC loan in 2014 for its oil operations in Colombia. The following year its operations at one oilfield were suspended by Colombia’s Constitutional Court, which found that the company had violated the rights of an indigenous community.”

This International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) media release further explains, “On February 23, 2016 the Colombian Constitutional Court ordered the suspension of exploration and extraction activities being carried out by Pacific E&P and subsidiary Meta Petroleum Corp., in joint venture with Ecopetrol, in Puerto Gaitan, Meta due to effects caused in the Sikuani indigenous territory Vencedor Piriri.”

That FIDH media release notes, “The court considered that operations in the Quifa concession violate the fundamental rights of the indigenous community, specifically its right to prior consultation.”

Indigenous reserves and Afro-Colombian lands

In March 2019, Frontera Energy explained in this Annual Information Form report (on page 41), “Despite the fact that the Company is committed to operating in a socially responsible manner, the Company may face opposition from local communities with respect to its current and future projects, which could adversely affect the Company’s business, results of operations and financial condition.”

That section continues, “In Colombia, the Company currently carries out and plans to carry out activities in areas classified by the government as indigenous reserves (resguardos) and Afro-Colombian lands (territorios colectivos).”

Peace Brigades International uses the tools of protective accompaniment, education, research and advocacy for conflict transformation and to assist with the construction of a new discourse that recognizes the legitimacy of human rights concerns.

Photo: A December 14, 2018 protest in San Luis de Palenque demanding the release of the eight social leaders arrested on November 27, 2018.

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