News and updates from the continent

Soco ditches Virunga, DRC drilling plans

Soco ditches Virunga, DRC drilling plans

Jun 17, 2014

In a move welcomed by the World Wildlife Fund, British oil company Soco International has ditched its plans to drill for oil in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  The park is a World Heritage Site, and UNESCO says it is Africa’s richest trove of natural beauty and biodiversity and the WWF has long campaigned against any plans to drill in Virunga.

Soco is reportedly leaving the area in around July 2014, after completing a seismic survey of the park’s Lake Edward, where drilling was to have taken place. Tens of thousands of local people depend on the lake for fish, which is also home to thousands of hippos. Soco says it will not drill in the park without permission from UNESCO, and will keep out of all the world’s 981 World Heritage Sites.

Soco came under pressure after an expert report was released last month on the status of the park. French company Total pulled out of the region in 2013.

Says the WWF’s Alona Rivord of WWF: “It’s very exciting to see another company go in that direction.”

It seems that celebrations may be early for the park in general, though. The government of the DRC has yet to remove overall permission for oil companies to search and drill for oil. “There’s no active oil threat now, but 85% of the park has concessions covering it, so the next step is to get the DRC’s government to withdraw them,” says Rivord.

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