March 26, 2019 / 12:28 AM / 25 days ago

Amazonian residents seize PetroTal's oil installations in Peru

LIMA, March 25 (Reuters) - Residents of a remote Amazonian region seized a small oil installation operated by Canadian energy company PetroTal Corp to demand electricity and other government services, an industry group said on Monday.

The latest protest to target oil and mining operations in Peru in recent months has sparked calls for the government of President Martin Vizcarra to take steps to prevent the incidents, which risk deterring investment in the country.

Production from PetroTal’s Block 95 halted after about 70 residents of the village of Brena in the Amazonian region Loreto took control of its installations on Sunday, Peruvian Society of Hydrocarbons (SPH) said in a statement.

The government’s chief negotiator on conflicts with communities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Representatives of PetroTal and residents of Brena could not immediately be reached for comment.

PetroTal, formerly Sterling Resources Ltd, has indicated it is willing to talk with residents nears its operations, the SPH said, adding that it offered to donate an electric generator to the community.

“We call on authorities to do their job and restore calm,” SPH said in a statement. “Violence as a means of getting government attention is something that must be eradicated.”

Vizcarra’s government is still struggling to end a road blockade by an indigenous community in the Andes that has halted exports of one of the country’s biggest copper producers. Last month, it reached a deal with community that it had blamed for rupturing a state-operated pipeline in Loreto.

Peru, a major minerals exporter but a relatively small oil producer, is rife with conflicts, especially in places where international companies operate alongside poor communities that lack basic services.

The SPH said conflicts risk scaring away investments in Peru, and called for the government to do more than collect taxes and royalties and tend to the needs of remote communities.

PetroTal, the SPH said, plans to invest $365 million in the next five years in Peru. “The company has already paid nearly $5 million in taxes, money that could have been used to provide electricity for the community,” it said.

Block 95 has produced about 2,000 barrels of oil per day since it started operating in June of last year, according to PetroTal’s website. (Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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