SOCO starting seismic survey in Virunga before the findings of the EU-funded SEA?

OilvsVirunga1

This month’s article in Africa IntelligenceVirunga a hot issue”  reveals that it won’t be until November 2014 that the findings of the second phase of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), funded by the European Union, will be handed out to the  Ministry of Hydrocarbon in DR-Congo.

The SEA will be used to inform DRC Government decision-making and determine if Virunga National Park remains intact, disappears partially or totally (see post here below).

Any exploration activity by SOCO, or seismic study, should be put on hold until the EU-funded Strategic Environmental Assessment results are fully known. On the 7th of November  2013 Serge Lescaut, SOCO’s Central Africa director announced that the oil company will be waiting for the results of the Strategic Environmental Assessment commissioned by the DRC government and supported by the EU. The company official said to have the full support of DRC government and will respect its decision.

Unfortunately, this seems not the case.  Local sources are concerned that SOCO International Plc is moving ahead and plans to start the seismic data acquisition in Lake Edward.

Is SOCO allowed to start seismic exploration in Virunga National Park? Is this in line with the Strategic Environmental Assessment commissioned by the DRC government?

REPOST March 2013

The DRC government gave SOCO International Plc, the oil company with the biggest participating interest in the oil blocks covering Virunga National Park, permission to assess and valuate the oil reserves in this Unesco World Heritage site in danger  – NOTE – Authorization for the areomagnetic and gravimetric data survey… no mention of seismic data collection…

The information provided by SOCO International will be used as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to inform DRC Government decision-making and therefore determine if Virunga National Park remains intact, disappears partially or totally.

The fact that this type of assessment is now in the hands of the oil company having the biggest stake in oil exploration in Virunga National Park is a dangerous precedent and compromises the independent character of such an assessment.

Furthermore, it could affect the next phase of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), as experts in the field stress, one of the most important aspects concerning the process of a SEA are:

  1. the quality of information. Can the information be trusted?
  2. the transparency of the process(1)

In the oil industry, the value of an oil and gas company is mainly determined by its reserves. This means that SOCO’s primary assets “are its entitlements to future production from reserves, and one of the distinct features of the industry is its depleting asset base and need for replacement through drilling and acquisition.(2)” 

Reliability and Transparency

Can SOCO provide an objective assessment of these crucial areas that is not influenced by its concession ownership or own commercial  interests in Virunga National Park?

This is an important consideration when seeking to inform DRC government decision-making in all transparency and avoiding any sort of conflict interests.

Read here the official communiqué of the Congolese Minister of Environment :