Canada’s PetroTal has shut in production at its Bretana oilfield in Peru’s Loreto region, after clashes between protesters and police left three people dead and several injured.

PetroTal confirmed on Monday that a group of "armed" protesters confronted police on Sunday, with the company claiming three protesters died from injuries during the struggle, with another dozen injuries reported among both police and protesters.

Reuters quoted Peru’s Interior Minister Jorge Montoya when it reported that the protesters included about 70 local tribesmen armed with spears, while PetroTal claimed Monday the group were from outside of Bretana.

Call for investigation

In a statement, local organisation Orpio, claimed the indigenous protesters were not carrying any firearms and has called for a full investigation into who initiated the shooting and the death of the three protesters.

PetroTal claimed the protesters were the same group that took over a Petroperu pump station the prior week in Saramiriza seeking government assistance against the Covid-19 crisis. It is understood the group on Sunday were protesting for the same reason, according to the Orpio statement.

As a result of last week's incident, PetroTal said it had requested increased security at Bretana, which saw about 40 police officers dispatched to the field in a bid, the company claims, to discourage violence.

Field shut in

A local prosecutor from Requena was also present to report on any disturbances and charges are expected to be laid against those PetroTal said acted unlawfully during the protest.

PetroTal anticipates the Bretana field, which lies in Block 95, will remain shut in until an inquiry into the incident is completed.

“For safety reasons, all non-essential personnel have been evacuated from the oilfield pursuant to the normal rotation schedule, with a key group remaining on hand to commence production when it’s appropriate, at which time the remaining crew will be brought back into the field under the appropriate Covid-19 protocol,” PetroTal said.

“It is important to highlight that the protests were against the government of Peru, as PetroTal is known as a Peruvian led and operated oil company whose mission and vision is in tune with the local communities struggle to be empowered to manage their fair share of the government’s oil contracts take.

"PetroTal has consistently promoted that government and community revenue sharing should happen under full transparency.”

PetroTal only resumed output at Bretana last month after output was interrupted in early May when Petroperu shut down operations at the Oleoduto Norperuano pipeline in response to a government directive related to Covid-19 prevention.