British oil company SOCO International plc (SOCO) has agreed to end its controversial operations in Africa’s oldest national park. Oil drilling was resolutely opposed by local and international environmental groups and also drew criticism from the British Government, which said it was against all oil exploration within the national park or any other World Heritage Site.
International campaigns such as WWF’s “Draw The Line”, EcoInternet’s global petition and SaveVirunga, as well as the recent film documentary ‘Virunga’ produced by Orlando von Einsiedel put pressure on SOCO to withdraw from Virunga.
In October 2013, WWF filed a complaint against SOCO under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The company’s commitment comes following mediation between the two parties as part of this process.
IS IT REALLY A VICTORY?
SOCO International has agreed with WWF in a joint statement to commit not to undertake or commission any exploratory or other drilling within Virunga National Park “unless UNESCO and the DRC government agree that such activities are not incompatible with its World Heritage status”.
However, the oil company will still complete their existing operational programme including completing the seismic survey on Lake Edward this month.
Roger Cagle, SOCO’s deputy chief executive, said that the DRC could apply to UNESCO to redraw the boundaries of the 3,000-square-mile park to exclude part of Lake Edward, where SOCO is exploring for oil. If the DRC wanted to benefit from its oil, it could even apply to Unesco to remove Virunga from the list of World Heritage Sites.
Does SOCO finally admit that their intentions are to drill for oil, or sell the concession to another oil company? We may have won a battle, but Virunga is still ‘under siege’.
Virunga – Official Trailer 2014