On November 6th SOCO International published its Interim Management Statement announcing that the DRC government has commissioned him to do an aerial survey and environmental baseline studies (even hippopotami and fish studies…) over Block V. SOCO reiterates that all these activities are part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment supported by the European Union and commissioned by the DRC government. This is quite a U-turn from the 2011 Kinshasa Declaration, which agreed to suspend all oil exploration activities until finalization of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
Open door to Virunga, SOCO on sale?
After receiving permission from the DRC government for exploratory work as part of the SEA, SOCO can finally enter the park and get the much coveted oil reserves price tag. Despite the latent conflict in the region, SOCO is catching the interest of possible buyers and finding more oil is always good news for the share price and for bargaining with one of the oil majors.
The threat that this new resource could represent for the stability, feeding off and fueling conflict in the Kivus, does not seem to be an impediment for SOCO. Time is money, SOCO is not losing time; from November 1st to November 13th they had several touchdowns in Virunga National Park, first Kyavinyonge, Rwindi and Vitshumbi, all announcing the start of their oil exploration activities on the 19th of November.
Due Diligence or a price tag?
With the fall of Goma on the 20th of November, thousands of people fleeing their homes and fighting intensifying in most of the province of North Kivu, is SOCO still willing to proceed with its plans for oil exploration in Virunga National Park? How can a company that says to be acting in a responsible manner only mention security status on the ground as a conditionality without taking into account the wider context in which they are operating: 1 / an endangered World Heritage site, 2 / a proven link between natural resources, conflict and human rights abuses in the Kivus and 3/ a devastating humanitarian crisis.
How much is needed to declare Virunga a no-go-zone?