Virunga oil drilling
January 2011. WWF calls on UK listed companies SOCO and Dominion to abandon their oil exploration plans in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), warning these actions will undermine decades of work and successful and costly conservation efforts aimed at saving the park’s unique nature.
The UK-listed companies’ plans to drill for oil will be costly for the area’s precious and fragile biodiversity, including, chimpanzees, hippos, elephants and other rare species, as well as the local population who benefit from tourism and sustainable fishing inside the national park.
Africa’s oldest National Park
Africa’s oldest national park and the continent’s first World Heritage Site, Virunga is home to many species of mammals, birds and reptiles, and an impressive diversity of landscape and habitats. It is also home to about 200, almost a quarter, of the earth’s last remaining mountain gorillas. Armed groups are moving out of the park, and the enormous efforts put into conservation work is starting to pay off and the park’s situation is finally improving. But with oil companies coming in all these achievements might be undermined.
Some 30,000 local fishermen who fish sustainably on the park’s Lake Edward, a Ramsar protected site, will also suffer if drilling plans in the park go ahead.
After so many years of conservation and money invested in the Park by conservation groups, the international community and the government, it is devastating to see an oil company pursue profit with total disrespect for both the animals and the local Congolese. WWF calls on the Congolese government to guarantee and to enforce the existing oil exploration ban in the park designated World Heritage Site and asks the UK-listed companies to respect the law and international convention and to abandon their harmful plans for exploration.
Company maps seen by international media indicate that SOCO intends to drill through much of the park in areas with some of the highest savannah biomass in the world.
SOCO Statement in response to WWF
SOCO’s agreement with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo includes requirements that it meets certain obligations associated with exploring for natural resources in the country. SOCO gives assurances that in meeting these obligations, it will exercise the highest standards of care including keeping disruption to the environment to a minimum.
SOCO has lengthy experience of operating in sensitive areas and has never had a situation that resulted in lasting damage to the environment. SOCO’s operations are designed with the objective that both the local population and the environment should actually benefit from its involvement.