Oil confirmed under Africa's oldest wildlife park Virunga: DRC govt

An access to the Virunga National Park is seen near Rutshuru on June 17, 2014
An access to the Virunga National Park is seen near Rutshuru on June 17, 2014

Seismic tests in Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park, Africa's oldest wildlife reserve which is famed for its mountain gorillas, have confirmed the presence of oil, the Congolese government said Friday.

Tests carried out by British company Soco had returned "positive" on the presence of , Minister of Hydrocarbons Aime Ngoy Mukena told AFP by telephone.

On the question of "whether there is an " underneath the park, the study answered "yes", he said, without giving further details.

The announcement was likely to reignite a heated debate within DRC over the merits of exploring for oil in the vast park, which covers some 7,800 square kilometres (3,010 square miles) of lush forest, glaciated peaks and savannah in the restive eastern province of North Kivu.

The UNESCO world heritage site reopened to tourists last year after being closed for two years because of militia violence in the region.

UNESCO has warned several times that any exploration for oil in the park would be "incompatible" with its heritage status.

The Congolese has in the past promoted prospecting for oil in Virunga as offering a chance to lift the vast country out of poverty.

Critics warn, however, that the oil business would only exacerbate the armed conflicts that have torn North Kivu apart for more than two decades.

"If the government tried to exploit this oil, for us it will be death," the head of a local environmental NGO, Bantu Lukambo, told AFP.

In 2010, the government awarded several oil concessions straddling the park's boundaries, including giving "block V" to Soco, but suspended the permits following a domestic and international outcry.

London-based Soco was accused of corruption and intimidation by several NGOs—charges it denies—and a statement on the company's website said it no longer holds the licence for the block.

Soco has since been allowed to carry out tests to establish the environmental impact of possible oil exploration in the , however, and opponents fear the government may award the licences to another company.

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© 2015 AFP

Citation: Oil confirmed under Africa's oldest wildlife park Virunga: DRC govt (2015, November 7) retrieved 19 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-11-oil-africa-oldest-wildlife-virunga.html
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Nov 08, 2015
If Western Environmental groups value gorillas so much perhaps they should find land within their own nations in order to create a new home for them.

They may be from the tropical jungle, but they have proved to be able to adapt to a wide variety of climates and ecoregions just like their close primate cousins we humans.

The only things stopping them is human insistence they stay put or be put to death as well as the bogus notion that the place where you find an animal is it's only natural and possible home with any other location equaling certain death.

Nov 09, 2015
We need to help them build a functioning society without damaging their parks and then leaving.

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