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Drilling in Virunga National Park: Oil Company, WWF Agree on Future Plans

Image: Drilling in Virunga National Park: Oil Company, WWF Agree on Future Plans
In this 2013 file photo, the fishing village of Kavanyongi on the Northern shores of Lake Edward inside Virunga National Park.

By    |   Thursday, 12 Jun 2014 01:36 PM

Drilling in Virunga National Park in Africa could soon be stopped based on an agreement made this week between a London-based oil company and a wildlife protection group.

A joint statement by SOCO International PLC and Switzerland-based WWF Wednesday said there will be no exploratory drilling in Congo's Virunga National Park, which is Africa's oldest, unless the government and the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO agree it would not threaten the park's world heritage status. An estimated 200 engangered mountain gorillas also live in the park.

As part of the understanding, SOCO agreed to suspend exploration once it finishes seismic testing on Lake Edward and WWF pledged to drop a complaint that the oil company violates good-practice business guidelines set out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, The Associated Press reported.

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SOCO denied allegations it had withheld information about the environmental risks of possibly drilling on a tract that overlaps with the park, which is best known for being home to about a quarter of the world's estimated 800 remaining mountain gorillas.

The eastern Congo park is also the only place where all three African great apes can be seen, and the struggle over its resources has turned violent. In April, the chief warden, Emmanuel de Merode, was attacked by three gunmen while driving through the park.

Soon after that attack, British filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel released a documentary entitled "Virunga" that depicted the desperate struggle by de Merode and the park rangers to protect the park and its wildlife from armed militias, rebels and the oil company.

The Congolese government authorized oil exploration in the park by London-based SOCO, following the discovery of oil in 2010. The World Wildlife Fund, based in Gland, Switzerland, protested the legality of that decision.

Virunga is a World Heritage site listed by UNESCO as "in danger."

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Drilling in Virunga National Park in Africa could soon be stopped based on an agreement made this week between a London-based oil company and a wildlife protection group.
drilling, virunga national park
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2014-36-12
Thursday, 12 Jun 2014 01:36 PM
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