The environmental and human rights impacts of RBC and Amerisur/GeoPark oil extractivism in Putumayo, Colombia
Photo: Jani Silva, November 2021.
In May 2016, The Guardian reported: “[Colombian environmental defender Jani] Silva says she has seen firsthand the effects of big business in Putumayo, where, she believes, oil companies ‘exploit irresponsibly’ and contaminate the environment despite legal protection granted by courts to the Amazon peasant farmer reserve zone.”
In that article, Silva is quoted saying: “When I go to other places where the businesses are, and I see only oil and contamination, that is very painful.”
Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli of WOLA has also written: “Oil slicks pollute the soil and drinking water of hundreds of farmers, animals, and plants, which is why Silva has campaigned for years against oil extraction.”
Ecopetrol/Amerisur overlap the Reserve Zone
PBI-Colombia has also highlighted that “one of the great challenges” the Perla Amazónica Peasant Reserve Zone (ZRCPA) in the department of Putumayo “has faced has been the arrival and expansion of oil companies.”
Amnesty International has specified: “[Silva’s] work has placed her at loggerheads with the Ecopetrol oil company, which won a license to operate in areas overlapping with the reserve in 2006. In 2009, the license was transferred to the Amerisur oil company. Since then, at least two oil spills have poisoned the water sources that local communities depend on.”
Agenda Propia has also explained: “In the 22,000 hectare reserve, Jani and her community have a 4,632 hectare headache in Alea called Amerisur.”
It adds: “The company first applied for an environmental license in 2017, for 936 hectares, then applied for four thousand more two years later.”
RBC, Amerisur and GeoPark
During the period described above (starting in 2009), what has been the relationship between the Toronto-based Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Amerisur and GeoPark (that acquired Amerisur in November 2019)?
In May 2010, Amerisur announced that it had “appointed Royal Bank of Canada Europe Limited, trading as RBC Capital Markets, as its Nominated Adviser and Broker.”
In October 2012, Money Week reported: “RBC Capital Markets has Amerisur as a top pick, albeit in the speculative risk category.”
In February 2013, Amerisur CEO John Wardle presented at the RBC Capital Markets’ International Exploration & Production Conference in Toronto.
Risks faced by Jani Silva
As noted above, defending ZRCPA territory has had significant consequences for Silva. She has been followed, intimidated by unknown aggressors, and threatened with death.
Silva says: “For opposing extractive operations by oil companies and defending a healthy environment I have received threats, I was displaced from my home [in 2017], and there is an ongoing plan to kill me.”
Silva is accompanied by the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission, which in turn has been accompanied by PBI-Colombia since 1994.
We continue to follow this situation and to make the links between Canadian capital and the safety of environmental defenders like Jani Silva.