By Paul Chung
Image credit: @Sam Beebe, Ecotrust.
Ecuador is eyeing Chinese oil companies as it seeks to auction over 3 million of its 8.1 million hectares of Amazon rainforest territory to investors that would develop and advance the South American nation’s nascent oil industry.
“We had to come to China, which is Ecuador’s major trading partner and we have many common energy projects,” said Ecuador’s minister of Non-Renewable Resources, Wilson Pastor.
Besides China, Pastor also made personal visits to Colombia, France, Singapore, and the United States to seek oil bids.
According to Business Insider, Ecuador owes China some $7 billion (more than one-tenth of Ecuador’s GDP) in debt. China, one of Ecuador’s foremost development financiers, already imports oil from Ecuador.
Meanwhile, indigenous groups and the environment stand to lose the most under any proposed rainforest auction.
Over seven incensed indigenous groups have already voiced their steadfast resistance to the ministry’s plan. “They have not consulted us, and we’re here to tell the big investors that they don’t have our permission to exploit our land,” noted one indigenous women’s leader. Indigenous leaders are asking public and private oil companies to refrain from participating in the bidding process.
As if climate change wasn’t already a significant menace, the Amazon rainforest now braces for some of the world’s most notoriously skilled polluters: resource-hungry Chinese investors.