SOCO and WWF agree way forward on future activity in Virunga National Park (DRC)
SOCO International plc (SOCO) 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. This was agreed jointly in mediation through the UK National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines. We will complete our existing operational programme including completing the seismic survey on Lake Edward which is due to conclude shortly. The Company confirms its previous statements that no Block V drilling commitment have ever been made.
Roger Cagle, Deputy CEO said, “SOCO is pleased that we were able to work together with WWF to hopefully find a way to jointly improve conditions in Virunga National Park and for its inhabitants.”
The conclusion of this phase of work will give the DRC government vital information it will need in deciding how to proceed in Virunga National Park. Rui de Sousa, Chairman of SOCO said, “Our agreement with WWF focuses the need for the DRC Government and UNESCO to also reach an agreement on the best way to combine development and the environment.”
SOCO has carried out various environmental baseline studies on Block V, including fish and mollusc studies on Lake Edward and an inventory of the hippopotami population, relative to the seismic survey. The Company will continue to ensure that it conducts all of its operations in conformance with industry best practice and international standards.
Going forward SOCO will honour commitments we have made to local inhabitants to continue with our social programmes as long as we hold rights to the Block V license.
Ed Story, Chief Executive of SOCO, commented, “Today’s public commitment adds further definition and transparency to the Company’s approach regarding Virunga National Park and other World Heritage Sites. Hopefully we can all get back to activities focused on both people and the environment where it does the most good for a place that we think can have a better future.”
Approximately half of Block V is outside the boundaries of Virunga National Park. Licenses overlapping with other UNESCO World Heritage Sites would not be considered by the Company.