Up to recently, PASC was denouncing the threat caused by Alange Energy1, a subsidiary company of the giant Canadian oil company Pacific Rubiales (now named Pacific Exploration & Production, or Pacific E&P)2, in the páramo of Sumapaz. Thanks to the local movements’ advocacy against the oil exploration in their region, the Colombian authorities have refused to issue the environmental license necessary to pursue exploration activities in the territory. However, the company still has the opportunity to reapply for this license by adjusting its request, and inserting the governmental recommendations in its studies. We will be watching closely what happens next.
Thus, even though the Alange Energy COR-33 project is now suspended, we cannot loosen our alertness. Indeed, the Sumapaz ecosystem, considered as one of the most important fresh water reserve of the world, is threatened by two other oil projects; COR-04 and COR-11. Both of them are owned by another Canadian oil company named Canacol Energy Ltd.
Canacol, created in 2008, has its headquarter in Calgary, Alberta. Its founder, president and CEO, Charle Gamba, has worked for Occidental Oil & Gas Company, Alberta Energy Company, Canadian Occidental and Imperial Oil, before building its own empire. If Canacol Energy Ltd. owns capitals in Ecuador, its activities are mainly in Colombia. 80% of its assets regards the natural gas exploitation. The rest is devoted to the oil exploration and exploitation. She has world renowned partners such as Ecopetrol, ConocoPhillips, and Shell3.
The vice president business development & general counsel of Canacol management is Anthony Zaidi. M. Zaidi has previously held important responsibilities within Pacific E&P and within Petromagdalena Energy (now known as Alange Energy). Moreover, Canacol knows well Pacific E&P practices, as they have been partners in an oil exploration and exploitation contract in Portofino (40% Canacol and 60% Pacific E&P). This may be the reason explaining why the USO (Unión Sindical Obrera), a Colombian union for workers in the oil sector, has confused Canacol for a Pacific E&P’s subsidiary in one harsh article against Canacol’s actions.
Even though it appears that Canacol has never been a Pacific E&P’s subsidiary4, the USO critics against Canacol are still as pertinent and disturbing. The oil workers union has confronted Canacol on its opposition of the creation of a union in the city of Sahagun, in the Crucero region. The population mobilized against the Canadian company in order to ask for more social responsibilities on its part. Even more, many have criticized Canacol’s wages policies that do not allow a decent living wage for the employees5.
This conflict between Canacol and the communities affected par its projects is worrisome for the future. Canacol has shown itself closed to any discussion with the local actors and has refused to participate in a negotiation table put in place by the local government and the Colombian internal affairs ministry. It is rather police brutality that awaited the mobilized populations. This kind of closed mind on Canacol part and repeated refusal to take on any social responsibilities is similar to the corporative posture adopted by Pacific E&P in its many conflict with the USO.
Moreover, Canacol is particularly criticized for its environmental practices. Along with the American oil company ConocoPhilips Colombia Ventures Ltd, Canacol is one of the first company to use the fracking method in order to exploit non-conventional oil basins6. This method was prohibited in Germany, France and other countries for its disastrous consequences on the environment. Schematically, fracking involves injecting into the subsoil a mixture of water, sand and high pressure chemicals in order to fracture the earth and the stones containing the hydrocarbons. This practice has been condemned for many reasons, such as its impacts on the human health by hydrocarbons who has escaped the earth in gas form. The most visible impacts are the environmental ones. The use of fracking increases the risk of earthquakes by altering the tectonic plates. It also contaminates the atmosphere and pollutes the water sources with radioactive elements7.
In the Sumpaz páramo context, this water contamination would be very dangerous. The underground hydraulic network in this area is not mapped, and it is virtually impossible to ensure that chemicals do not contaminate these interconnected sources that supply water to thousands of people in the departments of Cundinamarca, Huila, Meta and Tolima, and the district of Bogotá. The water contamination of this region would also have huge impacts of the agricultural activities in the Sumapaz region which are the main sources of food for the country’s capital city. Let’s remember here the páramos are recognized for their important role in the absorption and release of water. They represent 75% of Colombia's water reserves and are home to a variety of fauna and flora, many of which live exclusively in the páramos ecosystems.
If we have win a fight against Alange Energy, the war for the protection of the Sumapaz region is not over. We will stay alert to any kind of development in regards to the COR-33, COR-04 and COR-11 and solidary to any struggles seeking to protect the land.
1. http://www.pasc.ca/fr/article/le-paramo-de-sumapaz-est-menace-dexploitation; http://www.pasc.ca/es/node/5006
5. http://www.usofrenteobrero.org/index.php/subdirectivas/cartagena/4171-canacol-energy-enemigo-de-las-comunidades-y-trabajadoreshttp://elmeridiano.co/acompanan/20082 http://www.pacocol.org/index.php/noticias/nacional/15513-multinacionales...