Sixteen Canadian oil and gas companies visited Colombia on government-organized trip despite conflicts over Indigenous rights

Published by Brent Patterson on

The American business magazine Forbes has reported: “Nearly a third of Colombia is designated indigenous territory… Often, that land sits atop natural riches that have made it the envy of prospectors. Conflicts abound in Colombia between indigenous communities and extractive industries clawing for oil, gold or lumber.”

And yet in January 2019, CBC reported: “Provincial and federal officials are putting the finishing touches on a trade mission to Colombia and Ecuador next month.”

“A spokesperson with Alberta Economic Development and Trade says officials from Global Affairs Canada and Export Development Canada will join the mission, which will focus on showcasing Canada’s mature fields technology and expertise.”

That article adds: “It’s described as a department-led mission without elected officials. Part of the discussions will include an overview of how the provincial and federal governments can support Canadian companies.”

The Alberta Gazette provides further details:

“Purpose: Led an oil and gas trade mission to Ecuador and Colombia to expose Alberta companies to operators and future partners in oil and gas and discuss ways on how Indigenous people can be involved in the energy sector. Six companies participated in the Ecuador mission and 16 in the Colombia mission. $8,399.20 of event costs were recovered from participants through the Dedicated Revenue Initiative. Date: February 20-28, 2019. Amount: $9,657.29 Location: Quito, Ecuador; and Bogota, Colombia”

The application form for the Colombia portion of this mission noted: “The Government of Alberta, in collaboration with Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and Export Development Canada (EDC), is organizing a trade mission to Colombia for February 26-28, 2019.”

“The mission will focus on showcasing Canada’s mature fields technology and expertise through several activities such as a mature fields seminar, a networking reception and targeted business-to-business meetings.”

It also noted: “A selection committee comprised of industry associations and partners will select the companies to participate on the mission based on their expertise and products or services. The main criteria for the selection process is that your company offers a product or service related to mature fields.”

Following that mission, Claudio Ramirez, the senior trade commissioner for Global Affairs Canada in Bogota, highlighted in August 2019 in an EDC blog:

“Colombian resources are depleting fast, so there’s a push to increase exploration through the auction of new blocks. Technologies related to oil recovery and mature fields are much sought after, as well as in the development of unconventional resources, like fracking and deep-water exploration.”

The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project accompanies the Luis Carlos Perez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP) that has long sought the implementation of the historic T-880 court ruling on Indigenous rights.

Judgment T-880/2006 of the Constitutional Court of Colombia relates to “the right to free prior and informed consent, and the rights related to demarcation of land, as well as exploitation of natural resources.”

The ruling referenced the then-draft of the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Notably, Colombia abstained at the historic UN General Assembly vote on UNDRIP on September 13, 2007 (while Canada voted against UNDRIP).

PBI-Canada continues to monitor the involvement of the Canadian state and Canadian corporations in oil and gas activities in Colombia in relation to concerns about human rights, Indigenous rights, water protection and climate change.

Specifically, we are drawing attention to the concerns being expressed about Toronto-based Frontera Energy in San Luis del Palenque; Calgary-based Parex Resources in Aguas Blancas; and Toronto-based Sintana Energy, Calgary-based Canacol Energy Ltd. and Parex Resources bidding to win contracts for fracking pilot projects in Colombia.

We have also just developed this brief overview noting Frontera Energy, Canacol Energy Ltd. and Calgary-based Gran Tierra Energy Inc. in relation to Indigenous rights struggles to protect the land and water in the Putumayo region of Colombia.

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