US Capital Energy drilling in Sarstoon-Temash National Park, Belize

Mayan and Garifuna communities opposing oil exploration; despite a Supreme Court decision, the company seems to have started operations


Description

In 1994, the government of Belize converted an area of roughly 17,000 hectares of Maya ancestral land into the Sarstoon-Temash National Park, without holding a consultation of the Maya people residents. However, the majority of local communities quickly embraced the protected status of their land. After the conversion, the government of Belize took another turn and opened up the national park for oil exploration by a Belize-owned subsidiary of the company US Capital Energy Inc. The communities refused this initiative, pointing out the lack of consultation. The resistance against the oil exploration activities was carried out by local residents in different ways. On the one hand, communities advanced local indigenous conservation models within the park. On the other hand, they started to challenge oil permits and exploration through Belize's legal system.

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Basic Data
NameUS Capital Energy drilling in Sarstoon-Temash National Park, Belize
CountryBelize
ProvinceToledo
SiteSarstoon Temash National Park
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsUS Capital Energy's project is still in its exploration phase. Drilling activities in the Sarstoon-Temash National Park have just recently begun. Expiration dates of the permits granted by the Belize government to the company have been waived and not been rendered explicitly void by the Supreme Court. The company has vowed to continue its drilling activities.
Project Area (in hectares)17,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population050 – 1,100 (around 900 of the Kekchi Mayas, 150-200 of the Garifuna Community)
Start Date01/01/1994
Company Names or State EnterprisesUS Capital Energy, Inc. from United States of America
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Belize
International and Financial InstitutionsInter-American Commission on Human Rights
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersSarstoon-Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM): http://www.satiim.org.bz/

Cultural Survival: http://www.culturalsurvival.org

Maya Leaders Alliance
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Mayan and Garifuna communities
Forms of MobilizationBoycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Oil spills, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Despite the 2014 Supreme Court decision, drilling activities in the Sarstoon-Temash National Park have recently begun. Expiration dates of the permits granted by the Belize government to the company have been waived and not been rendered explicitly void by the Supreme Court. The company has vowed to continue its drilling activities, even though the local Maya communities still oppose the project.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Consolidated Claims N° 171 and 172 of 2007, Judgment, Supreme Court of Belize, A.D. 2007
[click to view]

Claim N° 394 of 2013, Judgment, Supreme Court of Belize, A.D. 2014
[click to view]

Report N° 40/04, Case 12.053, Merits: Maya Indigenous Communities of the Toledo District, Belize, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), 12 October 2004,
[click to view]

References

Unión Mundial Para la Naturaleza (UICN) (2006), Áreas Protegidas y Pueblos Indígeas y Tradicionalas: Diversidad de Casos en América Latina y el Caribe, prepared by Laura Meza-Morales, December 2006
[click to view]

Links

Belize's Persistent Denial of Maya Land Rights, by Curtis Kline, IC Magazine, 28 July 2013,
[click to view]

US Capital Energy and Government of Belize Taunt Supreme Court SATIIM file for Injunction, Press Release, Sarstoon-Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM), 18 March 2014,
[click to view]

SATIIM and Indigenous Mayan Communities Supreme Court Victory is a Victory for all Belizeans, Press Release, Oceana, 4 April 2014,
[click to view]

SATIIM and Indigenous Peoples – Another Legal Victory, Press Release, SATIIM, 4 April 2014,
[click to view]

In Support of the Rule of Law, Press Release, Oceana, 15 April 2014,
[click to view]

Belize: Our Life, Our Lands – Respect Maya Land Rights, Cultural Survival, 1 February 2013
[click to view]

Indigenous Communities Challenge Big Oil in Belize, by Sandra Cuffe, Earth Island Journal, 27 October 2014,
[click to view]

Other Documents

Temash River in the Sarstoon Temash National Park Source: http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/elist/eListRead/indigenous_communities_challenge_big_oil_in_belize/

Photo by The Advocacy Project

Temash River in the Sarstoon Temash National Park, near where US Capital Energy has been conducting seismic tests.
[click to view]

Meta Information
Last update24/06/2015
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