On the 26th of February seven companies submitted bids to the Ugandan government in a licencing round which includes the Ngaji oil block which covers half of Lake Edward and large parts of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and forms part of the same continuous ecosystem as the Virunga World Heritage site. A Government spokesperson was reported in the Ugandan media today as saying that none of the companies submitted bids for Ngaji as a result of our campaign to save Virunga, but the government still plans to issue a licence for this area!

The Greater Virunga Landscape is one of the most bio-diverse areas on earth and home to Africa’s most iconic and endangered species like hippos, elephants and some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas.  Lake Edward is a vital source of food for over 200,000 people and its waters feed the Nile and Congo rivers.

Any oil activities in this area could lead to significant damage to the lake, the broader ecosystem and the people and animals that depend on it. Global Witness has been campaigning for over four years to prevent oil drilling in Lake Edward and the surrounding ecosystem – read more about it here. We are calling on UNESCO and the governments of DRC and Uganda to negotiate a no-go area for extractives around Lake Edward.

It may only be a matter of weeks before Uganda issues the oil licence in Lake Edward, effectively opening up Virunga by the back door. Don’t let this happen! Share our animation to help us raise awareness of this issue and keep the pressure up on the Ugandan government.

Source: Global Witness


(c) http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/


Oil Concession in BLOCK V (38.25% participating interest in Block V + Ophir sold its stake -46%- to fellow partner Soco International in July 2012 which increased Soco’s stake to 85%) – SOCO International is an international oil and gas exploration and production company, headquartered in London.

BREAKING: In November 2015, SOCO gives up oil license in proteced DRC park. British oil company says it no longer holds an exploration license in home to protected mountain gorillas in the DRC.

In 2010 SOCO began to drill for oil in the Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is home to 200 of the remaining 700 seriously endangered Mountain Gorilla. In March 2011 DRC Environment Minister Jose Endundo rejected an environmental assessment submitted by SOCO and announced that the government would now be conducting its own environmental assessment into oil exploration in Virunga, as well as the entire border region. SOCO denies the fact that drilling in the area could damage the park’s ecosystem and increase political tension in the area. Despite the DRC government’s decision, SOCO continues to drill on the Ugandan side of the border.[6] Source: Wikipedia

Present danger

As revealed in Global Witness’ release the Company announced in March 2012  “plans to press ahead with oil exploration in Africa’s oldest National Park and UNESCO World Heritage site, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They announced the plans on Wednesday evening, after Global Witness contacted SOCO for a response.

Two permits – published today by Global Witness – 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.

SOCO’s plans to undertake an aerial survey have already been made public. However, the permits being published today appear to give the green light to a broader range of exploration activities, including seismic surveys. A number of reliable sources also indicate that SOCO is pushing ahead with plans to establish a camp in the fishing community of Nyakakoma, in the heart of the Park” Source: Global Witness

15th of June SOCO entered the park. SOCO has stated that “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. We do not expect any animals or fish will be harmed as a direct result of our activities.” Source: SOCO International Plc

Armed groups present in oil block V:  

Masisi Territory: FDLR, APFSC (Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo), CDF (Congolese Democratic Front), Pareco Fort, Mai-Mai

Rutshuru Territory: FDLR, Mai-Mai, M23 / Source: ICG Africa Report N.18

OPHIR EXIT – SOLD to SOCO – Oil Concession in BLOCK V- (46,75% participating interest in Block V -DRC-)Dominion Petroleum in process of acquisition by Ophir Energy plc and bought by SOCO on July 2012

The closing of the acquisition of Dominion Petroleum gave Ophir Energy blocks in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Prior to its sale to Ophir, Dominion had done some work on its Block 4B in Uganda, which included drilling. Unfortunately for Dominion, and ultimately Ophir, the well was not a success. During H1 Ophir took steps to close the office in Uganda and relinquish Block 4B. The acquisition also gave Ophir a 46.75% stake in Block V in the DRC. This block has seen some issues getting an exploration program started due to environmental concerns as it lies in the Virunga National Park in DRC.

Ophir sold its stake to fellow partner Soco International in July which increased Soco’s stake to 85%. Source: Petroleum Africa


Oil Concession in BLOK III – Agreement between SacOil and Total S.A. that buys 66.66% shares of SacOil. SacOil retains 12.5% and DRC Government 15%

BREAKING: In February 2016: Total is conducting seismic testing on Congo oil block. One-third of Block 3’s acreage is located inside Virunga but Total has promised not to explore in or near the 7,800-square-kilometre park

TOTAL  is a French multinational oil and gas company and one of the six “Supermajor” oil companies in the world. SacOil – South Africa Congo Oil Company (Pty) Ltd. provides oil and gas exploration and production services. The company was incorporated in 2007 and is based in Johannesburg, South Africa. South Africa Congo Oil Company (Pty) Ltd. operates as a subsidiary of SacOil Holdings Limited. Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

Present Danger

After Uganda, Lake Albert, and block 3a, Total is considering exploration in DRC’s  block 3.

Additional information on the  interests in block III :

“On 12 March 2012, Total acquired a further 6.66% effective interest in Block III from DIG, a shareholder in Semliki. Pursuant to the acquisition, Total’s holding in Block III increased to 66.66%, whereas SacOil’s effective interest remains unchanged at 12.5%, DIG’s holding reduces to 5.84% and the DRC Government retains 15.0%. As a result of this transaction, Semliki, a company incorporated in the DRC and through which SacOil and DIG own their interests in Block III, is now owned 68% by SacOil and 32% by DIG. SacOil’s effective interest of 12.5% and its entitlement to contingent cash bonuses of US$54 million and a carry on all exploration expenses up to final investment decision (when a development plan is approved) remain unchanged.” Source: LSE

On 12 September SacOil announces the successful completion of airborne gravity and magnetic survey in Block III. “SacOil announces that Total E&P RDC (“Total”), the Operator of Block III, Albertine Graben in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has successfully conducted an airborne gravity and magnetic survey on the northern part of the Block III area, located outside the Virunga National Park. SacOil holds a 12.5% effective interest in Block I.

Preliminary processing of the Block III gravity and magnetic data broadly confirms the trend observed in the adjacent concessions in Uganda. It is expected that more detailed processing will identify features similar to those that were found to be oil-bearing in Uganda.

Planning for the acquisition of a 2D seismic survey, to map potential oil and gas prospects, is underway and Total has initiated a tendering process. Subject to the positive identification of structures that may contain oil and gas, Total intends to drill an exploration well, in order to determine the presence of oil and/or gas and the potential commercial viability of Block III.

In terms of the Farm-in and Joint Venture Agreements on Block III, Total bears all the costs associated with the acquisition of the airborne gravity and magnetic survey and will carry SacOil through the seismic survey, any subsequent exploration and appraisal wells, up to a final investment decision.” Source: 4-Traders

Armed groups present in oil block III:  

Irumu Territory: FPRI (Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri)

Mambasa Territory: Colonel Kasambasa aka Simba, deserter

Beni Territory: ADF-Nalu, Mai-Mai / Source: ICG Africa Report N.188


Oil Concession in BLOK IV-


Armed groups present in oil block IV:  

Lubero Territory: ADF-Nalu, Mai-Mai /Source: ICG Africa Report N.188


5 thoughts on “Mapping the Oil Threat

  1. Adhiero a la preservación del Parque Nacional de Virunga. El área de preservación se debe mantener libre de todo interés de corporaciones que corrompen a la población para lograr sus propósitos. Las compañías de origen extranjero deberían hacer exploraciones en sus territorios y dejar en paz a los países africanos, sud americanos Etc.
    ” GO HOME ..!! Ellos se enriquecen y diezman poblaciones enteras dejando pocos nuevos ricos y millones de indigentes.

  2. Happy Earth Day (April 22)!!! Reiterating my support to your efforts of preserving the National Park of Virunga from oil extraction!! Keep in it in the ground in favor of the local communities and the ecosystem.

  3. Nature is life, if someone does not like nature by his interest, let us show him the importance of life without nature.

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