Mentioning economic development in the Amazon rainforest is a contentious issue— and particularly when talking about oil and gas development. Prior to introducing the Agua Caliente Oilfield (and its relationship to the Boiling River), we would like to be very clear about what our purpose is in this section.
Our purpose is not to present a treatise on Amazonian oilfield development, nor to discuss the past impact of this oilfield on the Boiling River area. Our purpose with this section is to identify the current state-of-affairs in light of our goal of obtaining long-term protection of the Boiling River and its jungle.
The Boiling River area lies on top of a partially eroded geological structure called the Agua Caliente Dome. The area is an oil and gas concession and is contained in PerúPetro Lot 31-D. This oilfield was the site of the first successfully drilled oil well in the Peruvian Amazon in 1938— a distinction that also makes it the oldest operating oilfield in the Peruvian Amazon. From the drilling of this first well to the present time, the oilfield has passed from one company to another, and is currently operated by Maple Energy (http://www.maple-energy.com/index_maintenance.aspx).
For a more detailed account of the oilfield’s history, click here.
The oilfield itself is located on the crest of the Agua Caliente Dome, roughly one to two miles (about 1.6 to 3.2 kilometers) south of the Boiling River. It is a small oilfield, with modern installations, and a full-time staff who lives and works at the oilfield camp. The majority of the workers are locals. All workers and visitors to the oilfield are required to follow strict environmental-responsibility guidelines and attend environmental training sessions.
From Andrés Ruzo’s personal experiences visiting the oilfield and surrounding jungle, he has observed Maple taking environmental responsibility seriously. The result is that its area of the jungle appears to be very healthy when compared to neighboring areas.
Though this may sound suspect, it makes sense—the Agua Caliente Oilfield is protected by Maple, whose security personnel patrol their area and do their best to keep poachers, illegal loggers, squatters, and especially clear-burners out. As an international oil company, Maple is held to high environmental standards, and is regularly monitored by watchdog groups. Furthermore, Maple has an added incentive to keep the clear-burners out to protect itself from oilfield fires, which would significantly damage their operations.
All around the Agua Caliente Dome, total deforestation has turned once-lush jungle into empty fields—concentrating wildlife species into the oilfield. It should also be noted that oilfield rules prohibit hunting or disturbing wildlife, in a significantly stricter (and more enforced) way than even the shamanic communities. This includes large insects, like butterflies or rhino beetles. Andrés notes that the oilfield’s jungles are the only place in the Boiling River area where he has observed flocks of white-throated toucans, a vulnerable species.
Both Mayantuyacu and Santuario Huistín’s shamans have expressed no complaints about Maple and have identified them as a good neighbor. Ultimately, all three groups have a vested interest in preserving the jungle—and especially keeping the clear-burning fires out.
Though initial oilfield development certainly played a role in opening up the area for development (and deforestation), one need only see modern satellite images on Google Earth—and how the lands protected by the company remain overwhelmingly intact—to understand the oilfield’s modern role in protecting the ecosystem.
Please note that the Boiling River Project, Mayantuyacu, and Santuario Huistín have not received funds, incentives, or coersion by Maple Energy to express these opinions.