Tolima departmental assembly rejects contract awarded to Parex Resources over concerns about Ibagué aquifer

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Departmental Assembly session in Tolima. Photo by Suministrada.

Ecos del Combeima reports that the Departmental Assembly in Tolima has rejected a contract awarded to Calgary-based Parex Resources.

The article highlights:

“Deputy Renzo García said that environmental damage would be caused to the Ibagué aquifer and that surface and groundwater would be contaminated. Similarly, the leader of the Green Alliance drew attention to the absence of citizen participation and the lack of attention to the declaration of climate emergency approved by the Departmental Assembly.”

Still from video by Renzo Garcia.

It also notes: “[The Departmental Assembly] rejects the contract for the award of the VSM25 block to the multinational PAREX Resources Inc, with an area of approximately 27,600 hectares, in the municipalities of Alvarado, Coello, Ibagué, Piedras and San Luis.”

The article further suggests that the Departmental Assembly will request the National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) to reverse the contract awarded Parex.

Photo from Ecos del Combeima.

VSM 25 in the Upper Magdalena Valley

In July 2013, the residents of the municipality of Piedras in the department of Tolima voted in a popular consultation against large-scale mining activities on their territory.

Americas Quarterly has explained that while Colombian law (Law 134 of 1994, Article 8) says it is obligatory for national authorities to respect the results of popular consultations, the Colombian government dismissed the results of the consultation, saying municipalities do not have the right to determine subsoil use.

Despite that popular consultation result, RCN Radio reported that in July 2019: “The National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) signed two new contracts with the Canadian multinational Parex Resources Colombia Ltd, with the purpose of carrying out exploration and exploitation activities in the departments of Tolima and Meta.”

At that time, the Mayor of Ibagué, Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo, commented: “The Ibagué plateau has the fourth most important aquifer in the country, it is clean and necessary water for the future of a city since surface water is scarce. What would happen if there is an oil exploitation that contaminates those aquifers for us?”

Parex and “Water for All”

In its most recent Sustainability Report (on page 36), Parex highlighted: “During 2021, the Agua para Todos (“Water for All”) program continued to expand its reach to families from neighbouring communities, helping to improve their health and well-being.”

And yet this charity isn’t always welcome.

In 2020, El Nuevo Dia reported: “The contribution of markets and hydraulic pipe by the multinational was seen as a way to ‘buy’ wills, a fact that was emphatically rejected by a large part of the community of Doima.”

That article further noted: “In early July, the oil company … installed 230 metres of pipe for the community aqueduct of Doima [in Piedras, Tolima], without consulting the aqueduct board or the users…”

PBI visits Parex operations in Bajo Simacota, Santander

On June 29 of this year, Peace Brigades International accompanied the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights (CREDHOS) on a visit to the Parex Aguas Blancas gas/oil field in Bajo Simacota, Santander.

There we heard community concerns about how Parex operations had contaminated local water supplies.

Parex and fracking

In March 2019, Reuters reported: “At least five companies are interested in six fracking blocs in Colombia…” In that article, Maria Fernanda Suarez, who was the Colombian Mines and Energy Minister at that time, named Parex Resources as one of the companies interested in the fracking blocs.

Additionally, on July 9, 2022, Infobae reported that the new government’s intention to ban fracking could be an issue “for the four oil multinationals that signed the contracts with the Colombian State, for the commercial and experimental development of crude oil and gas in unconventional fields in Colombia” including “Parex Resources (with one contract)…”

That exploration and production (E&P) contract was signed on September 18, 2014, for Block VMM-9 but has been suspended, according to Parex in this December 2021 report, “due the lack of regulations to explore and exploit unconventional hydrocarbons.”

Chart from La Republica (September 2022). NOTE: Calgary-based Canacol Energy Ltd. holds a 20 per cent stake in the VMM-2/Plata and VMM-3/Piranga projects with ConocoPhillips. Toronto-based Sintana owns a 30 per cent non-operated participation interest in the VMM-37/Platero project operated by Ecopetrol.

26 new blocks for Parex

On January 6, 2022, the Colombian newspaper Portafolio reported that of the 69 blocks auctioned between 2019 and 2021, 26 blocks went to Parex Resources. Eighteen of the 26 bids by Parex were made in December 2021.

Chart from La Republica (January 2022).

We continue to follow this situation.

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