Open Letter to Congolese Government: Stop Oil Exploration in Virunga National Park

by May 8, 2012Conservation Threats, Virunga

Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest National Park and home to the last mountain gorillas, is under imminent threat. Currently 85% of the Park has been allocated as oil concessions.

British company SOCO International and the French TOTAL, both listed in the listed in the London Stock Exchange, are resuming oil exploration in Virunga National Park, after the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government suspended these activities for one year.

In 2011, the DRC government blocked oil exploration in Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga, until a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is conducted.

Therefore, the local and international communities were “surprised to learn of the award of permits for the oil company SOCO to conduct exploration activities in the Park in September and October 2011 by the Ministers of Environment and Hydrocarbons”.

SOCO International expressed the intention to immediately install an exploration camp in Virunga National Park. In the past months, the company has already begun preparatory work to implement its plan of exploration within the administrative boundaries of the Park, beginning with the installation of personnel and equipment.

19 international conservation & development organisations, including the African Conservation Foundation, sent this open letter to the Congolese government to express their concern that this approach is not compatible with the Congolese law and constitution nor with international agreements which clearly define the World Heritage areas as unsuitable for extractive activities.

“Given the exceptional biological value, the special legal status of Virunga National Park, the fragile stability in the region and the interests of the local population, we invite you to continue all efforts to secure peace and to ensure compliance with national legislation and international agreements. We kindly request your Excellencies to review the decisions of your Environment and Hydrocarbons Ministries granting permits for exploration activities in the Park, and to support the SEA process to be conducted by a team of independent experts as well as entering into an open dialogue with all people concerned, with local authorities and park management as well as local civil society”.

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View Open letter to DRC Government (English)

View Open letter to DRC Government (French)