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Sarayaku - Oil extraction in Block 23, Ecuador


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

Name of conflict:Sarayaku - Oil extraction in Block 23, Ecuador
State or province:Pastaza
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 commodities:Crude oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

1.5 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:200000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1996
Company names or state enterprises:Petroecuador 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 actors:Ministerio de Minas y Petrleo - Ecuador Government, CIDH - USA
International and Finance InstitutionsUN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Consejo 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

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Involvement 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-economical 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
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of alternatives:Respect 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain: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 & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

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

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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

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

Conflictos socio-ambientales en el Ecuador. Granda, Alicia. Accion Ecologica, 2001

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

Marea Negra en la Amazonia. Anamaría Varea, Pablo Ortiz. Abya-yala, 1995

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

Peticion 167/03, Admisibilidad Pueblo Indigena Kichwa de Sarayaku y sus miembros, Ecuador, CIDH, 13 /10/ 2004

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

Pastaza Runakuna Tantanakuy. Organizacion de los pueblos indigenas de Pastaza, Ortiz Pablo, OPIP. 2001

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

The Sarayaku case in the general assembly of the UN, October 19, 2006

Sarayaku, cuando el pueblo dice ‘no’, Observatorio Petroleo Sur, 11/11/2009

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

El caso Sarayaku en la asemblea general de la ONU, 19 de octubre 2006

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

Sarayaku: People of the Zenith "When others have surrendered, Sarayaku will not back down."Amazon Watch

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

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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

Documentary Los Descendientes del Jaguar, Amnesty International

Photos' Gallery, Kichwa People of Sarayaku, Ecuador's Amazon Region, Organization of American States, April 21, 2012

Other comments:Petition to the Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos CIDH, Pueblo Indigena Kichwa de Sarayaku ( case number 12.465) vs. the State of Ecuador

Meta information

Contributor:Lucie Greyl
Last update18/08/2019



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