Is Canada importing “conflict oil” from the Cubiro Block in San Luis de Palenque, Colombia?

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Gabriel de Alba, Chairman of the Board of Frontera Energy. He is also the Co-Chairman of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group Board of Directors.

In 2021, Canada imported 10,872 barrels of oil per day from Colombia.

That is an annual total of about 3.97 million barrels, up from 2.89 million in 2020 and 2.53 million in 2018. The 2021 figure has also been reported as 3.19 million barrels.

Notably, all of the Colombian oil exported to Canada in 2021 was imported into the province of New Brunswick.

Colombia has seven major oil pipelines, five of which connect production fields to the Caribbean export terminal at Coveñas. One of those pipelines – the 120,000 bpd Bicentenario pipeline – connects with the Llanos basin in the department of Casanare.

In January 2019, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that one of the operators of the pipeline was Pacific Rubiales Energy.

Toronto-based Frontera Energy operates the Cubiro oil block in the Llanos basin. Prior to June 2017, Frontera Energy operated as Pacific Exploration & Production Corporation (and was also known as Pacific Rubiales).

The Cubiro block produces an average of 3,600 barrels of oil per day (while the company says the block produced 2,410 barrels per day of light and medium crude oil in 2021).

Colombia Informa has further specified: “Frontera Energy has had a license to extract oil in the territory of San Luis de Palenque, Cubiro Block, since 2005. It has installed some 20 platforms in the six districts of the municipality. These extract oil 8,000 feet deep. Only its most active platform (Copa 1) takes out 22 trucks with between 220 and 240 barrels of crude oil each day for an approximate value of 600 million pesos [about CAD $182,000].”

BNAmericas has also reported the Cubiro block “accounts for ‘important royalties’ for the company that have totaled some $30 million USD since 2015.”

PBI-Colombia accompanies the Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP) and the Social Corporation for Community Advice and Training (COSPACC) who in turn accompany social leaders in San Luis de Palenque who have protested Frontera.

In February 2018, Frontera temporarily closed Cubiro block operations.

At that time, they said: “Unfortunately, the excessive demands on the part of a minority group of people from San Luis de Palenque — a group that does not represent the leaders or the community of the municipality — has led the company to make this decision.”

By November 16 and 19, 2018, Frontera had signed two protection agreements with the Ministry of Defence for USD $1.34 million to secure army protection.

Just days after those contracts were signed, a police and military operation arrested eight social leaders in San Luis de Palenque on November 27.

The community members who were arrested and criminalized are: Ferney Salcedo, Yulivel Leal, Jesús Leal Salcedo, Carmen Iraida Salcedo, Miguel Ángel Rincón, Josué Eliecer Rincón, María Teresa Rincón and Salcedo Betancourt.

Video: A Black Hawk helicopter was used in the arrest of the social leaders.

A still from this video of the social leaders being taken into custody after their arrest.

On September 16, 2019, the CSPP and COSPACC raised this situation with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva.

Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, also raised concerns about the criminalization of these leaders in his February-March 2020 report to the UN Human Rights Council.

It was not until August-September 2020, that a judge ordered the release of the leaders from prison and house arrest.

Photo: Miguel Ángel Rincón and Carmen Iraida Salcedo receiving the news they would be released from house arrest, August 2020.

El Nuevo Oriente reports: “The release decision was appealed by the Prosecutor’s Office and by Frontera Energy’s lawyers.”

In May 2022, the company reported a first-quarter net income of $102.2 million.

That same month Frontera Energy also released its Sustainability Report that noted its goals for 2022 (to be reported on in May 2023) include “community engagement” and to “Increase local goods and services purchases to $41 million through direct contracting and subcontracting processes.”

PBI-Canada met with the criminalized social leaders this past July 1.

They are now expected to be in court this October to face the criminal charges dating back to November 2018. Their lawyer has cautioned the legal process could take two more years and even may need to be followed by an appeals process.

The company’s annual shareholders meeting is expected to take place in May 2023.

We continue to follow this situation.

Community meeting at La Venturosa, July 1, 2022.

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