Sarayaku - Oil extraction in Block 23, Ecuador

In 2012, after the Kichwa peoples petition, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights prevented oil exploitation to happen in Block 23.


The Kichwa people of Sarayaku, who were appointed legal owners of their ancestral territory in 1992, strongly opposed the Block 23 oil exploitation project presented in 1996. They launched a campaign, supported by environmentalists and local associations, against the new extraction facilities to be built by General Company of Combustibles (CGC). Back in the 1930s, Shell settled in that very area triggering Sarayacu peoples resistance to oil extraction for the first time. In the following years, several oil companies tried to follow Shell in exploiting the Kichwa ancestral territories: U.S Company Western Amoco in 1970, ldela Arco Oriente in 1989, and Argentinean CGC in 1996. During the communication campaign about the oil exploitation project in 2001 with the communities, the Kichwa people from Sarayacu strongly expressed their opposition. However in 2002 the oil company started its explorations, coupled with the militarization of the territory. The Kichwa’s activism against the project was criminalized. Still Association of the Kichwa Peoples from Sarakayu together with the CEJIL and the CDES achieved international media attention when in 2003 they presented a petition to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) denouncing the Ecuadorian State prejudice of the Kichwa people from Sarayacu. The CIDH finally ruled in favor of the Kichwa people in June 2012, recognizing that the Ecuadorian State violated the indigenous peoples’ right to prior consultation. The Government had to present public excuses. Since 2015 the Amazon blocks 74 and 75 are the new targets for oil exploitation, placing a new threat upon the Sarayacu’s territory integrity. 

Basic Data
NameSarayaku - Oil extraction in Block 23, Ecuador
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local 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 Details1.5 tons of explosive located in 465 different spots left by the Argentinean oil company CGC between 2002 and 2003.

New threat since 2015: Exploration of Blocks 74 &75.
Project Area (in hectares)200000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date1996
Company Names or State EnterprisesPetroecuador from Ecuador
Walsh Ecuador from Ecuador
DAYMI Services from Argentina
General Company of Combustibles (CGC ) from Argentina
Petroamazonas Ecuador SA (Petroamazonas) from Ecuador - currently exploirating blocks 74 and 75
Relevant government actorsMinisterio de Minas y Petrleo - Ecuador Government, CIDH - USA
International and Financial InstitutionsUN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersConsejo del gobierno de Sarayacu, Accion Ecolgica, CONAIE, OPIP, Sarayaku Residents Association, Centro de Derechos Económicos y Sociales (CDES), Amnesty International, Oilwatch - Nigeria, Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL) - USA
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Potential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of AlternativesRespect of indigenous, territory and collective rights, "Que nos dejen vivir en paz" (" Let us live alone") Defending Kichwa's way of living which implies the respect of the whole rainforest integrity. Patricia Gualinga, Kichwa Leader [1]
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) ordered CGC to suspend all extraction activities in 2004, and in 2009 the company was told to remove the explosives located in the native territory.
Sources and Materials

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Resolution N. 080-CAD-2009-04-20


SARAYAKU: El pueblo del Cenit. Identidad y Construccion Etnica. Chavez Gina, Lara Rommel, Moreno Mara. Flacso, 2005
[click to view]

Atlas amazónico de Ecuador, resistencia y agresiones. Accion Ecologica-CONAIE, 2006

Pastaza Runakuna Tantanakuy. Organizacion de los pueblos indigenas de Pastaza, Ortiz Pablo, OPIP. 2001
[click to view]

The blood of the earth. Oil geographical atlas. A Sud. Derive-Approdi. 2006

Conflictos socio-ambientales en el Ecuador. Granda, Alicia. Accion Ecologica, 2001
[click to view]

Marea Negra en la Amazonia. Anamaría Varea, Pablo Ortiz. Abya-yala, 1995
[click to view]

Mushuk Allpa - La experiencia de los indigenas de Pastaza en la conservación de la Selva Amazónica. Charvet Erika Silva. Fundación Instituo Amazanga, 2003
[click to view]

RESUMEN: Pueblo indigena Kichwa de Sarayaku vs. Ecuador - Resumen Oficial emitido por la Corte Interamericana de derechos humanos, 27/06/2012
[click to view]

Sentencia completa: Pueblo indigena Kichwa de Sarayaku vs. Ecuador - la Corte Interamericana de derechos humanos, 27/06/2012
[click to view]

Peticion 167/03, Admisibilidad Pueblo Indigena Kichwa de Sarayaku y sus miembros, Ecuador, CIDH, 13 /10/ 2004
[click to view]


Sarayaku, cuando el pueblo dice ‘no’, Observatorio Petroleo Sur, 11/11/2009
[click to view]

The Sarayaku case in the general assembly of the UN, October 19, 2006
[click to view]

How an indigenous community in Ecuador stood up to big oil – and won, Mongabay, 05/12/2014
[click to view]

Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos falla a favor de pueblo indígena Sarayaku, Business & Human Rights Resource Center, Junio 2012
[click to view]

El caso Sarayaku en la asemblea general de la ONU, 19 de octubre 2006
[click to view]

Sarayaku: People of the Zenith "When others have surrendered, Sarayaku will not back down."Amazon Watch
[click to view]

Impiden ingreso a delegación del Pueblo Originario Kichwa Sarayaku a la Asamblea Nacional para denunciar ingreso de petroleras a sus territorios – Ecuador, Felix Santi, Tomate Colectivo, 02/06/2015
[click to view]

Media Links

[1] Secretos del Yasuní: Capitulo Resistencia, Patricia Gualinga, 22/10/2013
[click to view]

Photos' Gallery, Kichwa People of Sarayaku, Ecuador's Amazon Region, Organization of American States, April 21, 2012
[click to view]

Documentary Los Descendientes del Jaguar, Amnesty International
[click to view]

Other Documents

Kichwa delegation from Sarayaku being prevented from entering the National Ecuatorian Assembly in June 2015. Leader Patricia Gualinga in the front. Tomate Colectivo / Belén Paéz
[click to view]

Other CommentsPetition to the Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos CIDH, Pueblo Indigena Kichwa de Sarayaku ( case number 12.465) vs. the State of Ecuador
Meta Information
ContributorLucie Greyl
Last update17/02/2016