Postcard from Lima: The curse of black gold

A recent off-shore oil spill in Peru is ruining lives. Yet the industry has blighted indigenous communities here for decades, says Dan Collyns

The World Today
Published 1 April 2022 Updated 31 March 2022 3 minute READ

Dan Collyns

British journalist covering Latin America, Freelance

The images in January from the once-pristine beaches of Ventanilla, north of Lima, shocked Peru and the world: dozens of workers in hazmat suits shovelling oily foam into wheelbarrows; oil-drenched seabirds being removed from black coastal waters; a local woman scrubbing the tar-stained rocks with a scouring pad and a washing-up bowl.     

In mid-January, more than 10,000 barrels of crude oil gushed into the sea when an underwater pipeline ruptured during a routine discharge into La Pampilla, the country’s largest oil refinery, managed by the Spanish energy giant Repsol. It is now Peru’s biggest oil spill, covering an area of 116 sq km, and the worst ecological disaster to hit its Pacific coastline.   

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.