GeoPark withdraws request for key permit to drill for crude in Peru

LIMA (Reuters) - GeoPark has withdrawn its request for an environmental permit to begin drilling for crude in the Peruvian Amazon amid protests from indigenous tribes, the oil company said on Thursday.

GeoPark said in a statement late on Thursday that it wanted to incorporate more information into its environmental plan for tapping Block 64 in the remote jungle region of Loreto, and planned to coordinate with authorities to resubmit it at a later date.

GeoPark needs Peruvian government approval of its environmental plan before it can start operating Block 64, which it says holds 160 million barrels of crude in probable and possible reserves.

State-run oil company Petroperu holds a 25% stake in the project.

The announcement came a day before leaders of the indigenous Achuar planned to meet with environmental authorities in the capital Lima to discuss their opposition to GeoPark’s plans.

Some Achuar communities have filed a lawsuit to halt GeoPark’s plans in Block 64, which overlaps with native land. They say they do not want any oil drilling nearby, and point to pollution from spills that has plagued other indigenous communities in Loreto.

GeoPark, which operates in Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Argentina, has said it plans to invest $130 million in Block 64, producing an initial 10,000 barrels per day. It has estimated operations there would start in late 2020 or early 2021.

Reporting by Maria Cervantes, writing by Mitra Taj, editing by G Crosse