Colombian environmental licensing agency approves fracking pilot project as environmental defenders face death threats

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On March 28, Blu Radio reported: “The National Environmental Licensing Authority (ANLA) has granted the first environmental permit for a fracking pilot project in Colombia. Resolution 00648 of 2022 announced the decision for Ecopetrol to start drilling the Kalé well, located in Puerto Wilches, Santander.”

This news was learned on Sunday night through a leaked document.

Oscar Sampayo of the Colombia Free Fracking Alliance says: “It is unfortunate that the ANLA, in less than five months, approves a license for the fracking pilot project without the social approval of the communities of Puerto Wilches. There are no guarantees.”

Infobae adds: “Civil society and the political establishments of the department of Santander oppose these pilots and have reported being victims of threats and attacks that put their lives and integrity at risk.”

Last month, Carolina Agón and Ramón Abril were named in pamphlets circulated by paramilitary groups. Carolina and Ramón were told to leave the area or face the consequences. Ten days later the home of Yuvelis Natalia Morales was broken into.

Carolina is a member of the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights (CREDHOS), Ramón is a Board member of CREDHOS, and Yuvelis is with the youth group Aguawil (the Committee for the Defence of Water, Life and Territory in the community of Puerto Wilches) accompanied by CREDHOS.

The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project accompanies CREDHOS. PBI-Canada helped coordinate a visit to Canada by CREDHOS president Ivan Madero in November 2019 in which he highlighted community concerns about fracking.

The Alliance says the ANLA authorization for the fracking pilot project was given in the context of “numerous voices of rejection, serious questions to the procedure and the increase in acts of violence in the Middle Magdalena were registered, including death threats that involved the exile of an activist from the region.”

The Alliance further notes that the ANLA decision was given “without the broad and informed participation of the communities of Puerto Wilches and Magdalena Medio, where for more than 100 years the consequences of environmental and social degradation associated with the exploitation of hydrocarbons in a conventional way have been suffered.”

And the Alliance says: “It is regrettable that a fundamental issue in energy matters has not been debated in the Congress of the Republic, where the government’s allies delayed for the third consecutive time the discussion of the bills to prohibit fracking, and is decided by the Duque Government, eagerly, without guarantees, and a few months after the inauguration of a new President.”

The presidential election in Colombia will take place on May 29 and the inauguration of the new president will take place on August 7.

This morning, presidential candidate Gustavo Petro tweeted: “Fracking is the most predatory mechanism, because it ends with the water of the territory to continue an economic system based on hydrocarbons. Puerto Wilches has a much better future in the agribusiness of small and medium-sized agricultural producers.”

Canada and fracking in Colombia

A second application for a fracking pilot project, which is also situated near Puerto Wilches, involves a Canadian company. The block where the Platero project would be conducted is 70 per cent controlled by ExxonMobil as the operator with the remaining 30 per cent held by Toronto-based Sintana Energy.

Another Canadian company, Calgary-based Canacol Energy Ltd., has commented that the two pilot projects are “positive steps towards realizing the commercial potential of the unconventional shale oil field in Colombia and specifically for the resources prospects that we have through our position in the Middle Magdalena Valley basin.”

Canacol holds a 20 per cent stake in the VMM-2/Plata and VMM-3/Piranga projects with ConcoPhillips holding the remaining stake.

These projects are located in the municipality of San Martin which is situated about 145 kilometres north of Puerto Wilches.

We continue to follow this situation.

The resolution from ANLA.

Statement by the Alianza in response to Resolution 648.

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