From: Reuters
Published February 7, 2008 04:14 PM

Ecuador to fine oil company for spill near park

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador said on Thursday it will fine Spanish oil firm Repsol up to $100,000 for not reporting on time an oil spill near the country's largest rain forest park, home to rare tropical species and Indian tribes.

In a statement, the oil and mines ministry also said the company has failed to implement safety programs.

Repsol's spokesman Federico Cruz said the company informed authorities of the spill on time. Repsol reported the spill of 100 barrels of crude oil on Thursday, a day after it occurred, but the ministry later said the company delayed the report and that the spill was of 500 barrels of oil and 2000 barrels of waste water.

Repsol said last week it contained the spill from a ruptured pipeline and that there was no damage to the 2.4 million-acre (970,000-hectare) Yasuni park deep in the country's Amazon jungle which is inhabited by pumas and pink dolphins.

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A ministry official said the final amount of the fine will be decided later after authorities further study the case.

Ecuador wants rich countries to pay $350 million a year in exchange for it not extracting 1 billion barrels of oil under the Yasuni reserve. Quito says leaving the oil in the ground would protect the environment in the Amazon to the benefit of all countries.

Repeated oil spills caused by old and unprotected pipelines of the state oil firm Petroecuador have polluted other nature reserves inside the Amazon in recent years.

(Reporting by Alonso Soto; editing by Jim Marshall)

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