(Translated by Colin Kluender, CSN Volunteer Translator)
By JUANITA VÉLEZ · SEPTEMBER 20 2016
ConocoPhillips, one of the multinational corporations that has gone furthest into Colombia to carry out fracking, has suspended its work in San Martin, in the south of Cesar. The company is thus far talking only of suspension, but the rumor in the region is that they’ve already requested to cancel contracts, and to initiate the agreement in a manner that compensates for money invested.
The company did not confirm to La Silla that they’ll be exiting altogether, but did confirm the decision to suspend their operations, local hiring, and maintenance of routes. Its argument is that proper safety regulations are not in place.
“The protection and safety of our employees and contractors is of the highest priority. Considering that we cannot guarantee their personal safety due to the current blockade, we have no alternative apart from the decision to suspend operations until the blockade can be lifted,” said spokeswoman of the company, Christina Kuhl, to La Silla.
As La Silla reported, the community of Cuatro Bocas, which is en route to the well where ConocoPhillips has license to explore hydrocarbons, blocked the passage of contractors and their machinery.
Since then, as Carlos Andrés Santiago, member of the Committee in Defense of Water, Territory, and Ecosystems (Cordatec), the group that has led the marches, said to La Silla: “The people in Cuatro Bocas have continued preventing their passage. They arrive with their machinery, sometimes escorted by the Army, and people have stood up to them time and time again to ensure that they cannot pass.”
The corporation’s contract with the National Agency of Hydrocarbons, ANH, (which has 3 phases of 3 years each) is in Phase 1, which consists of production tests in the well as a means to observe oil potential.
And if those licensed tests went as well as they hoped, the idea was to begin to carry out fracking in Phase 2, for which they would have to request another permission.
“But that’s not ready and we’ll have to wait to see the results”, ConocoPhillips told us two weeks ago.
However, for the more than seven thousand inhabitants that left to march against the fracking in San Martin, first in March and later in April of this year, allowing the multinational to run tests in the well is to give them the go ahead to frack in years to come.
Therefore, two weeks ago, when the oil company tried to return to clean the well and adapt it for conventional tests (they had not returned since April’s march), some inhabitants (two sources in Cuatro Bocas speak of dozens, the company says it was just two families) stopped contractors on the highway and prevented their advance.
“Throughout the marches and long route delays never has one of their employees been threatened nor touched. For the people in San Martin, pressure from the community is the fundamental reason for their exit”, says Santiago, of Cordatec.
Even so, the company, who operates in 14 countries, preferred to stop, just before the anti-fracking march that will take place in San Martin this Sunday.