The Peruvian Government has said this week that it is considering imposing sanctions against a Repsol-owned local refinery following a disastrous oil spill that President Pedro Castillo termed “one of the largest ecocides…on our coasts and sea”. 

In a press release, Repsol said that the spill was the result of “sudden and extraordinary anomalous waves” produced by a volcanic eruption in Tonga last week, with the tanker Mare Doricum impacted as it was unloading at the La Pampilla refinery. While the Spanish major initially said that the spill was minor, this assessment has been disputed, with the oil reportedly spreading around 40km from the refinery itself, and a clean-up operation underway on 21 beaches that is anticipated to last until the end of February.  

Images of Peruvian marine life and ecosystems doused in oil have been attracting the ire of environmental groups, with international environment NGO Oceana tweeting that “Peru needs to reassess its reliance on offshore oil drilling, which is a dirty and dangerous practice”. 

The incident has resulted in outcry from members of the public and political parties alike, with Prime Minister Mirtha Vásquez saying that some are calling for an entire cancellation or takeover of the refinery’s contract, or for the suspension of operations entirely. 

Calls are also being raised for restoration of the affected areas, as well as compensation for people impacted, with Environment Minister Rubén Ramírez saying that the company would face a fine of around $34m, as well as foot the bill for the clean-up efforts. 

Speaking to local radio station RPP, Vásquez said that a decision on whether to suspend the contract was still under discussion, adding that considerations of the matter would take into account the exact nature of infractions committed and the legal terms that Repsol is contracted under.  

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Repsol has said that it was not warned of the eruption’s impacts on Lima’s shores, and did not immediately know the full extent of the spill. The group has, however, said it could have reacted faster to news of the accident. 

Hundreds of people marched in protest against Repsol on Sunday, labelling its actions “ecocide”.