Oil company Soco International PLC has announced that it will not drill for oil in what is both Africa’s oldest national park and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Virunga National Park is host to invaluable biodiversity and rare animals such as the legendary and critically endangered mountain gorillas.
The conservation organisation WWF has been campaigning against Soco’s controversial oil exploration activities in Virunga, even launching a complaint against the oil multinational under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in October 2013.
On Wednesday Soco announced that it will withdraw from Virunga after ending its current operational activities, which include seismic testing in Lake Edward. The company pledges not to drill for oil in the park, which WWF warns could lead to severe environmental damage. The company also announced that it is committed to remaining out of all other UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Calling the announcement a victory for our planet and for good business practices, Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, called on the DRC government to cancel “all oil concessions overlapping the park”. Raymond Lumbuenamo of WWF-DRC said that the park can become a “leading economic driver for its communities” with proper investment. An independent report commissioned by WWF found that the park could grow in value to over 400 million dollars annually through activities such as ecotourism and fisheries.
Photo credit: Bradford Duplisea/Creative Commons