LA PAZ – Bolivia announced on Friday it was halting plans to spend $683 million on natural gas exploration work in an area of the southern province of Tarija due to environmental protests, saying that money would instead be invested elsewhere in the Andean nation.
La Paz said the two fields targeted for exploration had potential reserves of more than 4.21 trillion cubic feet and could have generated some $9 billion in revenue, $1.8 billion of which would have been allocated to that southern province.
In a press conference, Hydrocarbons Minister Luis Alberto Sanchez said some sectors in Tarija did not want the national government to invest there.
On April 7, Bolivia’s government enacted two laws authorizing natural gas exploration and production work at the Astillero and San Telmo fields, located in Tarija’s Tariquia Flora and Fauna National Reserve.
Sanchez said those funds would be allocated to “other places where the state’s work is appreciated.”
The minister said some non-governmental organizations, Tarija’s provincial government and that province’s civic committee were responsible for drumming up resistance to the gas project.
Public opposition to the planned exploratory drilling has become more vehement in recent days, prompting the government to reverse course.
Sanchez said, however, that work at both fields would have had a minimal impact on the national reserve’s 247,000-hectare (950-sq.-mile) area.
Brazilian state-controlled oil giant Petrobras and Bolivian state energy company YPFB’s Chaco and Andina units were to have carried out the work at Astillero and San Telmo.