Two permits giving SOCO the go-ahead were signed by DRC’s hydrocarbons and environment ministries despite a previously announced commitment by the government to suspend oil exploration in the Park pending the result of a Strategic Environmental Assessment. The assessment, funded by the EU and other international donors, is expected to be complete in late 2012.
Notes to editors:
- The permits being published today are available for download below in their original French.
- An English translation of the Hydrocarbons Ministry’s permit is also available for download below.
- The permit issued by the Hydrocarbons Ministry appears to give the go ahead for all exploration activities detailed in article 8 of the production sharing agreement for Bloc V. This production sharing agreement is available here in its original French: http://mines-rdc.cd/fr/documents/Hydro/contrat_rdc_dominion_soco_cohydro.pdf. The relevant section can be viewed on page 16-18. An English translation of relevant section is available for download below.
- Both the 1969 Law on Nature Conservation and the 2011 Environment Code prohibit oil exploration activities in protected areas. They would also be a breach of the Convention on World Heritage which DRC has ratified. Article 215 of the DRC’s constitution states that such treaties take precedence over all national laws. On 8 March 2012 Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders described the recent exploration authorisations as “contrary to Congolese legislation and international commitments”.
- The order signed by the Environment Ministry authorises “aeromagnetic and aerogravimetric” surveys in Bloc V. The order signed by the Hydrocarbons Ministry seems to give SOCO the go ahead for a full range of exploration activities including on the ground seismic tests.
- It emerged publicly in 2010 that SOCO International had signed a contract covering Bloc V of the Albertine Rift. Bloc V contains a sizeable chunk of the Virunga National Park. SOCO has published information on its activities in Bloc V: http://www.socointernational.com/csr-virunga_new.
- SOCO holds its interests in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) through its 85% owned subsidiary, SOCO Exploration and Production DRC Sprl (“SOCO E&P DRC”).
- UNESCO have also expressed their concerns about the situation in a news release: http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/849/
Source: Global Witness