Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger drawn into bitter row over 'illegal gas grab' in Peruvian Amazon
Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger drawn into bitter row over 'illegal gas grab' in Peruvian Amazon Survival International

Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger has been drawn into a bitter row over an "illegal gas grab" in the Peruvian Amazon.

Peru's government provoked fury from indigenous groups after it was discovered that it is attempting to explore gas in an Amazon reserve despite explicitly promising never to do so.

The reserve is the territory of several vulnerable uncontacted tribes, and a crucial buffer zone for the Manu National Park, listed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site for having a biological diversity that "exceeds any other place on Earth".

After visiting the Manu region, Jagger was made an environmental ambassador by Peru, who described him as a "great support in our fight to protect our ecology". The human rights group Survival International has written to him, asking him to intercede with the Peruvian government to save the lives of the indigenous population, saying: "Peru's last uncontacted tribes are in imminent danger."

Peru's plan to expand its massive Camisea gas project has been clouded in secrecy. Nine years ago the country confirmed that it would never expand the project eastward into the Nahua-Nanti reserve, home to several uncontacted tribes, and passed a "supreme decree" confirming its pledge.

But the government has now reportedly created a new exploration block in the reserve for state oil firm PetroPeru and Survival has received information that it is trying to revoke the decree.

Ironically, the new block is named Fitzcarrald after the rubber baron Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald, whose activities in the region a century ago contributed to the deaths of thousands of Indians from epidemics and mistreatment.

"It's ironic Peru's newest gas project takes a name that epitomises the reckless plunder of indigenous land. Peru should stop and remind itself why these areas are protected and Mick Jagger should use his honorary title to demand some answers," Survival director Stephen Corry said.

The group reported that, in a twist of fate, the rock star was due to star in Werner Herzog's 1982 film Fitzcarraldo about the rubber baron and filmed several scenes in the Peruvian Amazon, before he was replaced after going on tour with the Stones.

In a letter to Survival, Peru's vice-minister for culture, whose ministry is responsible for indigenous affairs, pledged to protect isolated Indian groups. But neither the energy ministry, nor PetroPeru, have responded to Survival's inquiries.