As National Strike protests fracking, Colombia signs contract with ExxonMobil for Platero project near Puerto Wilches

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On June 5, environmental defenders painted their opposition to fracking in front of the buildings of the Minister of Environment and Ecopetrol, the national petroleum company.

On June 4, the Colombian National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) and Texas-based ExxonMobil signed a contract that formally authorizes the Platero fracking pilot project to proceed near Puerto Wilches, Santander.

This follows ExxonMobil submitting a proposal to the ANH on March 17 and their provisional approval of that proposal on March 31.

The Colombian Minister of Mines and Energy, Diego Mesa, says: “[The pilot project] will allow us to make a decision based on science and research on the future of the hydraulic fracturing technique with horizontal drilling in Colombia.”

Mesa continues: “The experience of companies such as ExxonMobil and Ecopetrol will be deployed in projects with the highest technical standards, an open and participatory dialogue with the communities and the guarantee of environmental protection.”

And yet, communities have been clear in their opposition to fracking.

In February, an Oil Barometer poll found that 73 per cent of Colombians would not agree with fracking being carried out in their municipality and that 69 per cent of people in Puerto Wilches also disagree with fracking.

In May, more than 130 organizations announced their participation in the national strike. Among their demands was the prohibition of fracking in Colombia. The signatories of this statement include the PBI-Colombia accompanied José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective (CCAJAR) and Regional Corporation for the Defense of Human Rights (CREDHOS).

Canadian company Sintana and VMM-37

While ExxonMobil is a US-based transnational, there is a Canadian connection to the VMM-37 plot of land where the Platero fracking project is to take place.

Toronto-based Sintana Energy says: “Sintana, via wholly owned Patriot Energy Sucursal Colombia, holds an undivided 30% non-operated participation interest in a Contract for Exploration and Production for Block VMM-37.”

“ExxonMobil holds the remaining 70% participation interest in the Block VMM-37 Contract and is the designated Operator.”

“The Company’s support for Project Platero is made even though the Government’s process excluded an important segment of the petroleum industry by not allowing smaller companies, such as companies the size of Sintana, to participate in CEPI bids.”

Their statement adds: “Regarding Project Platero, Sintana has been and continues to be in positive communications with both ExxonMobil and the ANH to ensure that the integrity of both the Company’s commercial arrangements with ExxonMobil and the Contract for VMM-37 with the ANH are honored.”

PBI-Canada continues to follow this situation closely.

For more on a webinar convened by PBI and Above Ground on April 29 on fracking and extractivism in the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia, please click here.

Image from Mongabay.

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