British Government Opposes Oil Exploration in DR Congo Virunga National Park

The British government recently said that it is against London-based Soco International Oil Company’s oil exploration activity in the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park is the last refuge for mountain gorillas in the region.

A foreign office spokesperson said that they have informed the oil company and asked DR Congo’s government to wholly respect the foreign regulations that it is a part of.

International oil investment can have an important role in strengthening DRC’s economic development. Those types of investments have to be performed in a sustainable and responsible manner, observing local law and complying with international standards, said the statement.

DR Congo’s law does not allow any resource extraction activities inside its national parks, even if its government said in the early parts of this year that it had given Soco the permission to perform aerial surveys of the area.

In the past week, the oil minister of Congo said that the country will think of permitting oil exploration inside the park, Africa’s oldest and a site of UNESCO World Heritage. Moreover, the park is one of the leading biodiversity hot spots of the world.

Comments from the oil minister were obvious signs that the government was ready to act in a way that was opposed to the widespread uproar from conservationists and let oil be pumped from Virunga if important deposits were discovered.

Soco controls the oil exploration Block 5 of what is known as the Albertine Graben, a region along Uganda’s border with reserves estimated at about 3.5 billion barrels.

According to the latest statement of the deputy chief executive officer of Soco, Mr. Roger Cagle, the oil exploration activity had been temporarily stopped because of security issues in a place that had experienced violent tensions between government forces and rebels.

Moreover, Soco was far away from the completion of the area’s research and no oil drilling has been planned at this stage, said Cagle.