Protests rocked Colombia’s fourth largest oil producer Petrominerales Ltd on Thursday, forcing the Canadian firm to suspend output of 15,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), the company and a union said.
Protests against oil and mining companies are fairly common in Latin America’s No. 4 oil producer, with local communities seeking jobs or compensation for damages, and workers complaining about working conditions and pay.
Petrominerales said groups of people began blocking roads near its Corcel and Guatiquia fields in Meta department, one of Colombia’s most important oil provinces, from Tuesday evening. It said the protesters were not employees or contractors of the firm.
“These actions are illegal under Colombia law and accordingly, the Colombian government is currently in the process of restoring public order to the area,” it said.
“A temporary production halt has been initiated on certain wells located on our Corcel and Guatiquia Blocks. We estimate that approximately 15,000 barrels of oil per day are currently shut-in as a result.”
Petrominerales stock fell 2 percent on the Toronto bourse on Thursday and 1.6 percent on Colombia’s exchange.
Colombia has been rocked by a handful of protests at oil companies operating in the Meta province this year, which usually halt production for a few days. Exports are generally not substantially impacted due to stocks at ports.
Isnardo Lozano Gomez, secretary general at the USO oil workers union, said local communities were protesting over environmental damage in the area, the need for locals in the firm’s labor force, and the lack of social investment.
“Today this confrontation and manpower in the area … has increased substantially, and the community at this time is being subject to a brutal aggression by (anti-riot police),” he told Reuters by telephone.
Petrominerales — which is one of many Canadian explorers and producers in the country — produces around 40,000 bpd from all its fields.
In mid-August, protesters blocked access to a major oil field run by Pacific Rubiales, also in Meta.
Colombia has seen billions of dollars in foreign direct investment since 2002 when a U.S.-backed offensive beat back rebels to remoter regions of the Andean country and opened up new areas to investment, especially in oil and mining.
Better security and fiscal terms in the South American country have helped push Colombian national oil production to historic highs and have put it on track to produce 1 million bpd by the end of 2011.