By Maria Cervantes
LIMA (Reuters) - A Peruvian judge ruled that the government exclude an indigenous region of the Amazon near the border with Brazil from any oil exploration and exploitation, a legal group said on Wednesday, in a win for native communities that have long fought against oil and mining projects on their land.
The decision, announced by the Institute of Legal Defense (IDL), which advised on the case, came after a 2017 lawsuit by the Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the East demanded that the government and state energy agency Perupetro suspend authorisations to allow the development of three oil lots in the Loreto region, located in Peru's northern Amazon.
The IDL said the judge asked Peru to establish a strict protection zone around the area.
Peru's Ministry of Energy and Mines and Perupetro had planned to develop oil zones within the Sierra del Divisor national park, home to indigenous groups living in voluntary isolation which were recognised by the government in 2018 and 2019, according to government sources.
Representatives for the ministry and Perupetro were not immediately available for comment.
"This ruling is historic because it is the first in favor of indigenous people in voluntary isolation against oil companies. Almost 98% of the territory of the indigenous people in voluntary isolation was above three oil lots," said Maritza Quispe, a lawyer for IDL.
Native communities from the Peruvian Amazon and the Andes have won several lawsuits against the government over oil and mining projects since passage of the "prior consultation" law in 2011, which gives them the right to weigh in on official decisions that could affect their communities, according to judicial documents.
(Reporting by Maria Cervantes; writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Marguerita Choy)