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Protesters halt operations at Petrotal's Block 95, Peru's largest oilfield

Lima — Indigenous protests bought operations to a standstill at Peru's largest oil field, PetroTal's Block 95 in the northern Amazon rain forest, just days after a similar attack halted pumping at the state oil company's North Peruvian Oil Pipeline.

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Three protesters died and half-a-dozen policemen were injured after a group of 70 villagers armed with shotguns and spears attacked PetroTal's installations over the weekend, according to the government.

PetroTal, which has evacuated all non-essential personnel and plans to press charges against the protesters, the Calgary-based company said in a statement Aug 10.

The company "has shut down the Bretana oilfield due to civil unrest outside the oil field camp," PetroTal said in the statement. "The field closure is expected to last until the inquiry into the incident is completed."

A government commission will seek talks with the community, which is requesting medical attention amid the coronavirus pandemic, Energy & Mines Minister Luis Miguel Inchaustegui told reporters in Lima.

"The intention of paralyzing operations at the block and occupying the installations were part of the actions announced by a group that halted operations of the North Peruvian Oil Pipeline on Aug. 3," the Peruvian Hydrocarbons Society said in a statement. An investigation is needed "to restore peace at a time when it is vital to tackle the health and economic crisis in Peru," the industry group added.

PetroTal, which started operations at Block 95 in the Maranon Basin in last 2018, was producing about 10,000 b/d of crude in the first quarter. The company halted operations due to a nationwide lockdown in early May before reopening in mid-July.

Peru registered 478,024 cases and 21,072 deaths from COVID-19 through the weekend. The country's crude oil and natural gas output plummeted during a three-month lockdown that halted most operations.