Peru to ask Pluspetrol to leave jungle town after deadly protest
LIMA Feb 12 (Reuters) - Peru will ask Argentine energy company Pluspetrol to leave a restive Amazonian town in a natural gas block to calm tensions after protests against the company this week left one dead and dozens injured.
Energy and Mines Minister Eleodoro Mayorga made the announcement on Thursday in a televised speech before a crowd of hundreds in Pichanaki, a town in Peru's central jungle region Junin where locals have called for Pluspetrol's departure.
"I know one of your most important demands is that Pluspetrol leave. I'm going to ask the company to leave Pichanaki within three days, the time it needs to go and take everything it has brought," Mayorga said to cheers and applause.
Pluspetrol did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Protesters in Pichanaki want Pluspetrol to abandon its exploratory activities in natural gas block 108 because of fears they will lead to pollution.
Pluspetrol said earlier this week that it was open to dialogue and that it had not yet drilled any wells in the concession, which extends over 300 kilometers (186 miles).
Pluspetrol won the rights to develop block 108, expected to hold significant reserves of natural gas, in 2005. The government approved its environmental impact study in 2013.
Street demonstrations in Pichanaki that started on Monday were marked by clashes with police on Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving one protester dead and 75 injured.
Mayorga and other cabinet members traveled to Pichanaki on Wednesday to talk with protest leaders and encourage dialogue.
Pluspetrol is also struggling to end disputes in Peru's northern Amazonian region of Loreto, where indigenous protesters have taken control of oil wells and halted 3,100 barrels of output per day in the country's biggest oil block.
(Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Richard Chang)
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