No oil drilling in Virunga: Dutch Banks and Investors talking to Total

 No oil drilling in Virunga National Park

Credits: SinCamille 85

ZeistLarge Dutch banks and pension funds have investments in the French oil company Total, which wants to drill for oil in one of the last habitats of the endangered mountain gorillas, Virunga National Park in DR Congo. This became evident in a financial anlysis done by the economic research institute Profundo,  and commissioned by the WWF. The banks ING and Rabobank and the pension funds ABP and PFZW are the largest Dutch investors in Total.

Total is currently mapping out the oil fields. If the French oil company decides to drill wells in Virunga National Park, the mountain gorillas as well as the high diversity in plants and animal species in Africa’s oldest National Par will be in immediate danger. The oil concession of Total covers 31.5% percent of the protected area. Oil extraction in the park goes against Congolese legislation and international agreements and is in conflict with the sustainability policy of the Dutch financial institutions. They have hundreds of millions of Euros invested in Total.

Public statement

WWF has called on the French oil company Total, at its shareholders and investors meeting in May, to refrain from exploration in Virunga National Park.  Even if Total claims to remain outside the park, no official statement has been released. WWF is therefore not assured and is now calling on Total’s shareholders to exercise their influence. ING Investment Management, an investment subsidiary of Robeco, Rabobank, ABP and PFZW have already complied with WWF’s request. They are in talks with Total, which should lead to a public and official declaration stating that no oil is going to be explored on the ground within the current boundaries of Virunga National Park. ING and Rabobank emphasize that their policy does not allow oil exploration in World Heritage Sites as Virunga National Park.

WWF also urges the rest of the Dutch shareholders to join the discussions with Total.  WWF expects that the financial institutions will communicate the outcome of their discussions with the French oil company within two months’ time. “The mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park have survived years of civil war in the area” said Johan van de Gronden, director of  WWF Nederland. “It is ridiculous that the biggest threat now comes from an oil company. Total’s financial investors can persuade the company to stop its activities. In addition, we ask the banks and pension funds to never invest in oil companies that are negatively affecting natural heritage sites.”

Last mountain gorillas

Virunga National Park in DR Congo has more than 700 bird species and 200 mammal species. It was proclaimed Africa’s first National Park and a World Heritage Site in 1925. A quarter of the last 786 mountain gorillas on earth are found in the park. The gorillas do not live directly in the oil concession sector, but may suffer negative consequences of oil drilling.

Influx of people and traffic and pollution are direct threats. In addition to Total, the companies SOCO International & Ophir Energy also have an oil concession in and around the park. SOCO has already started activities in the park. WWF offices in  France, Germany and England are campaigning  to stop oil drilling in Virunga National Park.

Source: WNF

{ENG translation of PR }

One thought on “No oil drilling in Virunga: Dutch Banks and Investors talking to Total

  1. In response to the final paragraph of the above post referrring to SOCO International plc, it is important to clarify a few points:

    SOCO would like to emphasise that they are at the preliminary phase of exploration for possible hydrocarbons and, even if successful, they are several years away from concluding our scientific research. At this stage, no drilling has been planned.

    The initial exploration phase includes an aerial survey which would then be followed by a survey on Lake Edward, both commissioned by the DRC Government. SOCO does not expect any animals of fish to be harmed as a direct result of the company’s activities. SOCO is also working closely with the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (‘ICCN’).

    The Mountain Gorilla habitat, the Virunga Equatorial Rain Forest and the Virunga Volcanoes are not in the flight path of the aerial survey. Moreover, we expect that no fish will be harmed during the seismic survey on Lake Edward, and any local fisherman whose fishing activities will be compromised will receive compensation. SOCO has invested in this modern aerial technique for the survey, which is the most environmentally friendly technology possible.

    In September 2011, an Environmental Acceptability Certificate was issued to SOCO by the DRC Government for its aerial gravity and magnetic data campaigns on Block V. It includes conducting an inventory of the existing Hippopotami, and the identification, description and mapping of fish spawning areas in Lake Edward. SOCO is working closely with ICCN on this.

    SOCO intends for its positive social impact on the Block V surroundings to far outweigh any minor environmental impact that it may have. It is absolutely SOCO’s intention to have a positive social impact on the local communities’ lives, so SOCO can truly say as an organisation that it has been a positive presence. SOCO has already been in dialogue with many local stakeholders to understand their needs and priorities.

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