Tirana, Albania | Tirana Echo – The protesters of families from the small village of Zharrëz whose homes have been damaged from underground fluid injections from oil giant Bankers Petroleum refuse to go back home until a clear formal decision is taken by the Government of Albania on full compensation.
After marching by foot for more than 130 km from the village of Zharrëz in the region of Fier to Albania’s capital Tirana, the strikers met on Saturday with the Deputy Minister Niko Peleshi who promised the government would compensate 100% of the costs needed to repair or replace the damaged homes.
Following the meeting the Ministry of Energy said the government would assemble a working group to assess the damages and within 30 days a final report will be published with a final compensation of €400 Euros per square meter to be executed.
Bankers Petroleum, which last year was acquired by a Chinese firm from its original Canadian shareholders, says the halting of its tectonic fluid injection operation is costing the company $50,000 each day.
Distrustful of government promises, the “Zharrëz Strikers’ have set up camp in front of the Ministry of Energy in Tirana and refuse to go home to their village until a formal Government decision is made public.
“The strikers are expecting a government decision which should clearly define all deadlines of satisfying their demands starting from the temporary relocation of their residence to full compensation until a final long-term solution to the ground tremors caused by fluid injections underground” – said lawyer Adriatik Lapaj.
The villagers have been protesting against a specific drilling methodology for oil by Bankers Petroleum – called tectonic fluid injection which is known to cause earth tremors in the area. The tremors have cracked the walls of the inhabitants’ homes and caused panic for months, while the Government has to date not taken any concrete measures to establish the truth behind the tremors.
Bankers Petroleum began exploration in Albania in 2004 and operates the largest onshore oil field in continental Europe, according to the Albania Energy Association. Its operations have been marked by continuous allegations of illegal operations and tax evasion prompting the Albanian government to accuse the company last year of understating earnings to avoid its 50% profit tax.
Following the allegations, its original Canadian and American shareholders sold the company to China’s Geo-Jade Petroleum Corp for $575 million.
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